Research at AIIT

Dialog with an Uncertain Future / Excerp (Irregular updates)

The 38th Installment“The Ability to Look Ahead”

by Yuka Kato,
Professor, Master's Program of Information Systems Architecture

”The Ability to Look Ahead”

Attempts are often made around us to try to anticipate the technologies of several years in the future. The government and municipal offices develop technological strategy maps, expecting that the visions and technical issues will be shared among government, industry, and academia. Many thinktanks annually estimate and release information on the technological trends for the next year. The study group of the academic society of which I am a member is planning a symposium on such a theme in order to mark the 150th session. A symposium titled "Multimedia Telecommunication and Hi-speed, Intelligent, Distributed or Collaborative Computing, 2010" was held in 1994, and in this year of 2010, we will try to look back and predict the next 10 years. As the title of this serial column is "Dialogue with an Uncertain Future," I would like to discuss the ability to look ahead.

AIIT is a professional school whose goal is to develop professionals. Then, what does the term "professional" mean in reference to human resources? The school motto is "to educate highly expert technicians who possess the motivation and skill to create new value and contribute to the vitalization of industry using their expert knowledge and systematized technological experience." I think the direction professionals should take is to become human resources that lead each industry, identify the direction, and develop the next-generation human resources, as well as what is stated in the motto. The key for achieving that is the ability to look ahead. I think those who can identify what they should do, with an eye toward the technologies that will emerge in the next one or two decades, are professionals.

In fact, technological innovation is rapid, and thus it is often difficult to predict even the next several years. While some technologies that were developed far exceed our expectations, others were developed that are extremely different from our predictions. The article in the magazine IEEE (The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.) Spectrum lists a submarine city and life on the moon as technologies that were expected in 1964 to be realized in 2000. These expectations have not yet been realized in the real world; however, thinking of progress in the virtual world, a world that one could not have imagined at that time has been achieved now. Though the prediction from 1964 may be too old, the prediction from 2001 is more accurate. The near future predictions as of 2001 listed in the Spectrum include a society that is always connected via networks by the widespread use of cell phones (the Always-On World), an energy-efficient society from the power grid (now so-called Smart Grid), widespread use of electric and hybrid cars, and the decentralized grid technology for super-large-scale data (though the word "Cloud Computing" was not used), etc. In some sense, these predictions cover technologies that have come into practical use in recent years, and thus you may be able to understand the meaning of the ability to look ahead.

Speaking of practical education, we tend to think of its purpose as mastering immediately useful skills and adaptable fighting potential. However, I want students to master, at this graduate school, skills that will be effective 10 years after. One of those skills may be the ability to look ahead, and if you intend to acquire such a skill, you will spontaneously acquire other skills. For example, the technologies that seem to be innovative at one point are often derived from concepts developed in the past. So a deep understanding of the basics, standards, and changes(history) in technologies from many fields leads to identifying the essences of the technologies that are currently widespread. Such an understanding then helps predict the direction to go, which contributes to the development of the ability to look ahead. It is also important to take an interest in and acquire a wide variety of knowledge, not stick to your special field, because techniques adopted from other fields may often lead to innovations. The field of telecommunications and that of computers had formerly developed differently, but now it is nonsense to think of them separately. In addition, it is necessary to keep up with the trends of academic pursuits. There may be many technologies that cannot be put to practical use, and they will vanish. However, there are still many technologies that will help to foster the ability to look ahead just like the prediction from 2001.

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  • The 40th Installment

    “Essence of Information”

    by Hiroshi Koyama,
    Professor, Master's Program of Information Systems Architecture
  • The 38th Installment

    “The Ability to Look Ahead”

    by Yuka Kato,
    Professor, Master's Program of Information Systems Architecture
  • The 37th Installment

    “Network Games, Photography and Learning”

    by Tsuyoshi Aziro,
    Assistant Professor, Master's Program of Innovation for Design and Engineering