How do we generate synergy between the physical and digital world to make life better worldwide?

Applied research

This challenge calls for a solution and it is aimed at attempting to solve a problem.


The impact and advantages of technology on our lives today, can simply, not be ignored. The 21st century has been called the era of science and technology (and now data), especially with the new technology developments and advancements over the last few decades. A new society has already been defined recently, the so-called Society 5.0, which was proposed in the 5th Science and Technology Basic Plan as a future society that Japan should aspire to. It follows the hunting society (Society 1.0), agricultural society (Society 2.0), industrial society (Society 3.0), and information society (Society 4.0). This society will feature enhanced forms of robotics, AI, nanotechnology, and biotechnology, an enhanced Internet of Things, and further exploitation of Big Data

On the one hand, technology has made it easier to farm, more feasible to build cities, and more convenient to travel, among many other things, effectively linking together all countries on earth, helping to create globalization, and making it easier for economies to grow and for companies to do business.

On the other hand, is has generated a fierce debate among policy-makers, economists and industry leaders about its societal impact. As digitalization disrupts society ever more profoundly, concern is growing about how it is affecting issues such as jobs, wages, inequality, health, resource efficiency and security.

Can we find a way to combine the positive aspects of both the physical and digital world to make our lives healthier, “wealthier” and safer? And if so, what hurdles are there to take?

The main goal of this challenge is to find a way to create synergy between the digital and physical world, in a way that it improves our everyday lives notably.

Perspectives and possible directions

There is almost no area in which digital technology does not impact our current day lives, for better or worst. Since Covid-19, is has become evident how relatively easy we can switch to a new way of learning, living and working thanks to technology. We can monitor our health and keep our physicians informed using data technology, we can stay socially connected even under quarantine thanks to social media, entertainment and reading options have exploded exponentially because of new technologies, and our groceries are delivered on our doorstep with just a click of a button.

Digital technology is so broad today as to encompass almost everything. No product is made today, no person moves, nothing is collected, analyzed or communicated without some ‘digital technology’ being an integral part of it.  What does that mean for society, and how will things turn out in five, or ten, or twenty-five years’ time? Who will gain from new opportunities, and who will lose out and perhaps have to hunt for another job? How much is our privacy worth to us? What is the effect on human connection and the human factor in general.

It might also include the topic of Society 5.0, a human-centered society that balances economic advancement with the resolution of social problems by a system that highly integrates cyberspace and physical space. In such a society that integrates both the cyber and physical spaces, what is the exact role that human beings will play within it. What relationship is there between bio-science, high-tech disruptive technologies and human beings? What does this do to us as human beings? How do perceptions of AI and their application influence our identity, our ‘humanity’, , ethics, morality, social relationships and equality?

Questions connected to this challenge can cover many different domains. They could include questions about jurisprudence, privacy and freedom, food supply, health care, learning and development, social systems, big data, trust in institutions, the smart city, gaming, child development, liability, democracy, labour market trends, and industry.

The Supervisor