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Japan 2nd worldwide in number of AI and big data apps

A Japanese business news house reported on a global survey conducted by the European Patent Office. The survey concluded that in 2018 Japan ranked 2nd in the world in the number of patent applications in advanced IT-related fields, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI).

The survey examined IP applications that were filed in 2 or more countries between the year 2000 and 2018 in the fields of AI, 5G, big data and the internet of things. When comparing 2013 to 2018, Japan has increased its filing number by about 1.9 times, whereas China increased its filings by 5.3 times. With a total of 6679 applications, Japan ranked behind the United States that filed a total of 11927 applications. Meanwhile, as the number three, China had filed 6307 applications.

Between 2000 and 2018, cities and regions like Seoul, Tokyo, San Jose in Silicon Valley, Osaka, and Shenzhen ranked highest as areas where patent filings were concentrated.  While the survey shows that Japan holds an edge in R&D in this highly competitive field, it also highlights that Japan has an issue converting this research into commercial services.

An example of Japan’s massive R&D output is the world’s fastest supercomputer, designed by Japanese researchers, which is being used to create an AI tool that predicts tsunami flooding in almost real-time.

The system’s developers first high-res tsunami simulations on the Fugaku supercomputer, which generated 20,000 possible outcomes. This data was used to train the AI to predict flooding conditions before a tsunami strikes land by analysing offshore waveforms at the time of an earthquake.

Notably, the model can also run on ordinary PCs, which will make it easier to use in prediction systems. The researchers tested the system on a theoretical tsunami in Tokyo Bay. They say it produced highly accurate predictions in a manner of seconds for a variety of different tsunami scenarios.

They envision using the model to more accurately and rapidly obtain detailed flooding forecast data for specific areas. This could provide vital insights into the effects of tsunamis on buildings and roads in coastal urban areas. Ultimately, it could give disaster management teams a powerful tool for planning their disaster mitigation and evacuation strategies.

How will AI and robots affect the Japanese job market

How will automation and AI affect the future of employment? Policymakers, journalists, and academics alike have all pondered this question due to the fear of the replacement of human jobs by machines.

Recent research notes, taking robot automation as an example, that Japan’s experience of industrial robot adoption is peculiar in terms of the very early timing of robot adoption and the fact that the robots are produced domestically. Japan’s industrial robot producers in the late 1970s and the early 1980s expanded production through cut-throat competition and continuous innovation to meet the need of industries to remove the human labour force from the harsher portions of the work environment.

As a result, the timing of robot penetration in Japan was much earlier than in other developed countries.

This peculiar feature of robot penetration in Japan makes it an interesting case to study the effect of new technology penetration on employment among the early adopters of technologies that emerge domestically. This unique feature of Japan, however, poses a substantial challenge for researchers who attempt to estimate the causal effect of robot penetration on employment, because technology adoption is endogenously determined. An increase in technology adoption and increase in labour demand might occur simultaneously when product demand expands in an industry.

The study found that robots are complementary to employment, examining this finding both at the industry level and the regional level.

At the industry level, their findings showed that a 1% decrease in robot price increased adoption by 1.54%. Perhaps more surprisingly, they also found that a 1% decrease in robot price increased employment by 0.44%.

This finding implies that robots and labour are gross complements. Therefore, taken together, the two-stage least-squares estimates suggest that a 1% increase in robot adoption caused by price reduction increased employment by 0.28%.

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