I don’t remember since when, but I have always been wishing the world to be a place where people welcome differences, learn from each other, and always can be who they really are. Somehow even before I know the word “diversity”, diverse society was my dream.
However I don’t have much skills for that. The only thing I achieved through my life so far is becoming a bilingual. I speak Japanese as my first language, and I learned English as my second language. With my ability of communicating in these two languages, I have been working personally and professionally, helping people who have language and cultural barriers to understand each other, so they can achieve something great together.
It was originally just for my own interest. I simply loved that type of work. However, through the years I’ve been working, I learned that people start to feel more positive about differences, through the experience of working with different people. That gave me the bigger purpose of my work: through helping different people to achieve something together, make them realize the importance of welcoming, appreciating, and learning from the differences. Here, I want to call this way of working on diversity as “mindset approach”.
However, I was recently starting to doubt the mindset approach. As much as I believe that it is important, I also started to realize that it’s so time-consuming. The number of people I can work with is limited. Even if I keep working hard, it is impossible for me to work with everyone in the world. Also, it is too hard to see if my work is successful. Of course I can see how each project went, but my real purpose is to make a difference in people’s minds, which is unmeasurable. I am also trying to use social media and this blog as a platform, but all the followers and readers of mine are either my family, friends, and my friends’ friends.
I was almost losing a hope – but that was when I found out that there is another way to boost diversity. There already exist technologies that can physically create environments that will make it easier for everyone to accept diversity. Thanks to the latest technologies, it is becoming possible to actually change the world into where anyone and everyone can get opportunities to learn, work, and make their lives fulfilling.
This is the other way of realizing a diverse society. By using technologies, we can physically create environments where everyone can easily and naturally accept and appreciate diversity. Here I want to call this way of boosting diversity as “environmental approach”.
Through my own work, I have been focusing on breaking barriers of languages, cultures, and communication styles. However, when we say “diversity”, it means more than that. There are so many different people we need to empower. There must be a lot of people who want to learn, work, and contribute, but not being given the opportunities that they deserve. For example:
- elderly people (People retire after certain age, but some of them are healthy and still wanting to work.)
- children being born and raised in an unprivileged family (Not just financially, but also environmentally, such as having no good roll models around.)
- people with disabilities
- people who used to have a healthy and abled body but accidents or illnesses changed that
…but not limited to above.
There already exist technologies that can possibly break the existing barriers and help them to have the opportunities they deserve. For example, I am especially feeling hopeful about the following three points:
- AI will give us new roles.
- Each person will be assessed more as a person.
- People will have more options to work beyond their physical disabilities or circumstantial limits.
AI Will Give Us New Roles
When I hear “AI”, I used to feel intimidated. I used to worry if AI was going to steal all of our jobs, or if the world feels the same after everything was taken over by AI.
However, the more I leaned about AI, the more I realized that my worries were pointless. Yes, people are going to use AI more, and a lot of things will be automated – but this is going to be a positive change. Thanks to AI, we will be free from the tasks which we used to spend a lot of time for, and with the extra time, we will be able to focus on the work only human beings can, and we will be able to live more like humans. The world might not feel the same after the change, it might feel better.
AI is a confusing word, since people are defining it in so many different ways. For me personally, the definition by Kazuto Ataka was the easiest for me to understand.
According to him, AI is a high-speed computer with information science technology installed, trained with a large amount of data for a certain purpose. In short, he says AI consists of computer, algorithm and data.
You may already heard about what AI can do; basically, it can complete tasks which require a lot of time, effort, and intelligence from human beings, in an incredibly short time. For example, simultaneous translation, or finding related data for a certain purpose from an enormous amount of data in a few seconds. Even the tasks highly intelligent people have to get through years of trainings to get the necessary skills – can be done by AI in a very short time with precision. (Sounds like I shouldn’t be relaxed just bing a bilingual…!)
My initial guess that “our jobs will be stolen by AI” was not completely pointless. AI will (and already starting to) take over our jobs – but only the jobs AI is better at than we are.
We don’t need to be worried. Thanks to AI taking over the jobs we are not really good at, we will be able to focus on the jobs only humans can do, only we are good at.
If you are like me, you might be wondering what we are better at doing than AI is. Good news is that there are a lot of things human beings can do but AI can’t.
- We know what we are doing at each moment. (AI can’t cognize what it is doing.)
- We can have our own will. (AI doesn’t have will or goal of its own, so we have to create and give decision criteria to it, in order to let AI make decisions.)
- We can analogize based on our past experiences. (AI can’t deal with tasks which it doesn’t have data or experience for.)
- We can relate or combine any information or experiences in our mind freely, and use them to create something new. (It is said that this is the ability only human beings have.)
- We can raise a new question. (AI can’t think of a new question from nothing.)
- We can understand other people, and choose the best possible way to interact or communicate with them. (AI can respond to you, but only based on how it is programmed.)
- We have a human touch. (I thought this is the only thing left for us! Phew!)
We should let machines do what they are better at than we are, and rather focus on what only we can do. That is the work which is going to create values, and people who do the work will be valued more and more in the future.
With this change, education should also change. I don’t know about other countries, but at least in Japan, we still focus on memorizing a lot of things correctly. In most cases, all the questions on exams have each one correct answer, and students are expected to write down the one right answer. This way, people who can memorize more information get higher scores in exams, go to better schools and universities, and get better education. It seems like job interviews and assessment in many old-fashioned Japanese companies are also similar to this.
To be fair, being able to remember a lot of things correctly used to be a valuable skill – but it is not the case anymore. With the current technologies, now that machines are better at doing it than we are. It should be machines’ job. We need to realize that our existing exams and assessment systems can only measure how much the person can do the work which machines are clearly way better at doing. They can’t measure the abilities which is really important for human beings now and for the future.
Of course, understanding and remembering a lot of things will still be important – but not to write down the one right answer. It will still be important, because it will be the base of the abilities only human beings have: relating and combining different information and create something new, communication skill, and others mentioned above. Needless to say, it will also be necessary to learn how to use the machines as well.
Each Person Will be Assessed More As a Person
If our roles change as above, and how we assess people also change accordingly, people who have been ignored and underrated regardless of their valuable skills might will be valued in the way they deserve. I hope we can think of the way to realize it – I think we should, and I think we can.
Let me talk a little bit about one of my favorite TV series I’ve ever watched in my life.
It is a Netflix original series, “Derek”. My current favorite celebrity in the world, Ricky Gervais writes, directs, and acts the main character of this show.
Derek is the main character, who works in a care home for old people.
I really want you to watch this show if you haven’t, but Derek might be different from you, or people around you. He talks in a very unique way (such as “I loves animals.” or “This is my favouritest place.”). He never cares about his hairstyle or outfits, and he can be too honest sometimes. However, more importantly, he is kind, positive, interested, and loving more than anyone.
He is loved, appreciated, and trusted by everyone – both the residents of the care home and his colleagues. He makes everyone laugh, somehow makes everyone get on well, and makes them happy. Without a doubt, he is the irreplaceable key of everyone’s happiness at this care home.
I already mentioned about how technologies will change our roles – we will let machines do what they are better at, and we will focus on what only humans can do. I also wrote that people who are good at our new role will be valued more in the future.
Sometimes, the care home has “successful” visitors. They might have a well-paid job, and wear fancy clothes, living in a big house. When they meet Derek, they tend to look him down and treat him as if there is something wrong about him. However, once they talk with Derek and see who he is, they stop talking, looking like surprised. In the end, there is nothing right they can say, so they just leave. I think this illustrates the difference of people used to be highly evaluated and people will (should) be highly evaluated in the future.
Derek might not be an “ordinary” person. He might not be someone who gets hight scores in exams, or who becomes successful at old-fashioned corporate jobs.
However, seeing him loved and trusted more than anyone else by his colleagues and even by his customers, it is clear that he has the charm and ability that is important for his work. I think his best ability is this: understanding each person very well, and loving them with words and actions. I think this is one of the great things only human beings can do – and not everyone can do at the level he can do. I wish in the future society, people who can bring this much value as Derek does will be valued much higher than they are now.
Obviously this show is fiction, and Derek is also a fictional character. But I think there are a lot of people like Derek, at least people who are good and bad at similar things as Derek.
There must be people who were ignored and underrated, regardless how much value they actually bring, just because their ability was hard to measure in the old way of grading or assessing people. I hope the day they will be treated the way they truly deserve will come soon.
People Will Have More Options to Work Beyond Their Physical Disabilities or Circumstantial Limits
For people who have physical disabilities, or who have abled bodies but can’t leave their home often because they are taking care of little kids or elder people, I imagine that there have been a lot of obstacles to get opportunities to learn, work, earn money, and contribute to the society as other people do.
I was surprised when I recently learned that there already exist technologies that can enable them to work outside of their home by operating robots remotely. It sounds like a movie, but there are already people who are actually doing this in the real life!
The robot is “OriHime-D”, produced by a Japanese company, Ory Laboratories Inc.. In this short video, you can see a person who lost his mobility and speech, operating the robot by the movement of his eyes. He goes to see the ocean and paints the landscape. You can also see a person using a wheelchair, working in a cafe by operating the robot from her home.
Seeing this amazing technology of OriHime-D, I started thinking there must be more products and services in the world that can enable people who have disabilities or who can’t leave their home for other reasons to have more options to work, interact with other people, and do what they love.
In my adult life, I have been focusing on the “mindset approach”. I have been trying to help people with language or cultural barriers to achieve something together, hoping that experience can make them feel positive about the difference. I think I will always keep doing this through my life, because I believe the true diversity will only be realized when people really understand. Changing behaviors without changing minds will not work.
However, I also started to feel that I want to work for the “environmental approach” too. With this approach, I might be able to boost diversity, not limited to breaking language or cultural barriers, but in broader fields. The environmental approach is more visible than the mindset approach. Sometimes people need to actually see things to be convinced, or to understand something. Even people who we can’t change with mindset approach might change their own values or behaviors, once they see how technologies can change the world.
The problem is that the only thing I can do is, again, just communication in both English and Japanese. I don’t know where to start. I don’t even know if there is anything I can start. If you have any information or advice, I would really appreciate if you could let me know.
References and Inspirations
Netflix (Available in both English and Japanese)
- “Derek” https://www.netflix.com/jp-en/title/70258489
- “The Social Dilemma”https://www.netflix.com/jp/title/81254224
- “Connected” (Episode 1) https://www.netflix.com/jp/title/81031737
Podcast (Available only in Japanese. The English title below is translated by me.)
- “Ken En no Naka #8 Fitbit for Brain? Our thoughts on BMI start-up Neuralink” – Ryohei & Ayaka https://open.spotify.com/episode/7uFfXaPKiSRrWI0Oh3IbYh?si=5-rcyX1xTtq1Al3C2F3PSQ
Books (All written by Japanese authors for Japanese readers, introducing examples in other countries. Available only in Japanese. The English titles below are translated by me.)
- “Shin Nihon” – Kazuto Ataka (News Picks Publishing) https://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/4910063048/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_ekV5FbFN29DQK
- “After Digital – How to Survive the World Off-Line No Longer Exists” – Yasufumi Fuji, Kazuhiro Obara (Nikkei BP) https://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/4296101625/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_KkV5Fb16TQJ3J?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1
- “After Digital 2 – User Experience and Liberty” – Yasufumi Fuji (Nikkei BP) https://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/4296106317/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_glV5FbR0C4MDK?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1