DESIGN VISION is a design research project at Sony that predicts societal trends from
a variety of perspectives and explores the course that the future might take.
Designers at the Creative Center conduct their own research and interviews, leading to analysis and implications for the future.
The research in 2020 was conducted while the world was in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
From that research report, we reprint an interview with the thinker and anthropologist Shinichi Nakazawa.
Shinichi Nakazawa interview :
A Grand Path to the Idea of "Geo" in the Depths of Japanese Culture
Shinichi Nakazawa is a thinker and anthropologist who has been exploring the origins of human consciousness, folklore, biology, brain science, and quantum theory from all angles. What is this other intelligence that exists in Japan’s ancient spiritual culture that is separate from AI? With "Sony within the Planet Earth" as a destination, Nakazawa offers hints on how to achieve the kind of change in consciousness toward which each and every one of us should strive.
The COVID-19 Pandemic Sheds Light on the Effects of
the Unconscious in Modern Society
Please tell us about your research, including your book Earth Diver, which explores the ancient memories that lurk in cities.
Science thus far has made great progress through the language and logic generated by consciousness. However, it is impossible to talk about nature and humans, who are part of nature, in terms of consciousness alone. I have been working to achieve a more comprehensive way of understanding the world— including the unconscious realm—which has been overlooked in the past. I have named this “wild science” and put it into practice, with Earth Diver being one such example. Japan’s cities, which are prone to natural disasters such as typhoons and earthquakes, are built on a complex and unconscious relationship with Japan’s topography and climate. This project traces the topography of modern cities, where rational principles seem to dominate, and attempts to decipher the memory of the land that has been handed down since the Jōmon period (c. 14,000 to 1000 BCE).
How do such unconscious effects influence modern society?
The influence of the unconscious is particularly evident in Japanese culture, even when viewed from a global perspective. For example, one can observe that old cities in Europe were generally built with walls to prevent intrusion from the outside world. This is a good example of a "Logos" type of civilization that sees things logically. Starting with Greek philosophy, the method of classifying the world by sharply dividing it into contrasting elements has shaped the fundamental logic of Western civilization, eventually giving rise to digital technology expressed in the binary terms of ones and zeros. In the East, on the other hand, a vague intermediate region has been established between opposing elements, and things have been processed within this space. This difference in principles can be seen expressed in the measures taken by each country against the COVID-19 pandemic.
While strict city lockdowns have been imposed in many Western nations, Japan's policy has been more ambiguous. Just as the castle towns of the Sengoku period were poised to lure their enemies into their castles and destroy them, it can be said that they unconsciously adopted a method of taking the virus inside and assimilating it without blocking it. Setting success or failure as measured by scientific standards aside, the pandemic has greatly highlighted these unconscious differences in worldviews, from the nature of the city and its social structure to politics and people’s lives.
The Other Intelligence Known as "Lemma"
Gave Rise to the Inspiration Behind the Walkman
How does this worldview manifest itself in the Japanese way of manufacturing and business?
In fact, the most iconic example of this is probably the Walkman. The value of this product was and is that it fundamentally overturned the boundaries of living spaces, and challenged the idea that listening music is an indoor experience. There's a tendency in Japanese society to do things in a some what vague way that may seem lax, but it's precisely because of this that we have been able to break through the boundaries of fixed concepts. This is the greatest weapon of the Japanese way of thinking, and I believe it will be an extremely important methodology in our search for coexistence with the environment.
Unfortunately, however, the Japanese themselves have forgotten this way of thinking. Modern Western rationalism, based on Logos, has positioned nature as an outside world that must be controlled by humans. On the other hand, Japan has adapted to the uncertainty of natural disasters, and has long regarded nature and humanity as equals. As a result, the Japanese have developed a sense of "karma" in Buddhism, the sensibility that everything in this world is connected to each other without differentiating subject and object. It will be necessary to reclaim the "Lemma" of Buddhism—that is to say, the methodology of intuitively grasping the whole world, including the unconscious, with a new consciousness.
The Walkman TPS-L2, released in 1979.
"I believe it's an iconic product that truly symbolizes the Lemma way of thinking in Japanese manufacturing."
What are some possible ways to incorporate the unconscious into the logical system of business, which appears to be the exact opposite of the unconscious?
Business is truly the domain of Logos, but the Osaka merchants of times past used the logic systems of both Logos and Lemma with great skill. They had an extremely strict sense of money, but on the other hand they sometimes acted irrationally, willing to lose money for the value of trust. It's a philosophy of "Lose a dime and win a dollar." If they were cheated by another party, they may lose a lot of money, but in the long run, it would always work to their credit. They were strict and stingy, but they were also bold and unafraid of losing money. I think this sense of balance is one of the major factors that have led to the success of industrialization from the Meiji era on. It is important not to rush headlong with Logos into everything, but to leave room for the unconscious mind to work—in other words, to leave room for "space" (expressed as "ma" in Japanese). For those of us who are steeped in the logic of Logos—and this includes digital technology—this may seem irrational and simply careless. But I believe that this can be an opportunity to build a sense of the appropriate and ideal distance between people and other people, as well as between humans and nature.
Rethinking the Distance Between Humans,
AI and Nature From the Perspective of
"Sony Within the Planet Earth"
Sony AI's mission is to "Unleash Human Imagination and Creativity with AI". What are your thoughts on how AI can be used in the future?
AI is produced by Logos-like principles, the same as the words and mathematical formulas that humans have created, and its mechanism can be said to mimic the chronological transmission of electrical signals through human neurons. On the other hand, as a living organism, humans are founded on holistic action, or lemma-like principles, that cannot be captured by individual information transmission alone. In other words, AI is only a substitute for part of a human being. This means that even if AI's computational power surpasses that of humans, humans themselves cannot be reduced to AI. More than anything else, we need to take this into account. The problem, I think, is the way we use technology. For example, remote communication has become more popular during the COVID pandemic, but the sense of intimacy that can be gained through this is far from the intimacy of actual face-to-face interaction. And so, in the future, we need to find new ways for humans to communicate with each other at an appropriate distance. Whether it’s AI or any other technology, if we can create an appropriate sense of distance between people, machines, and nature as a relationship, I believe that would be a remarkable invention.
Our Chairman, President and CEO, Kenichiro Yoshida, has delivered a message of "Sony within the Planet Earth" in relation to SDGs/ESG management. What is Sony's role in shifting from a human-centric to an Earth-centric perspective?
What is required of humanity today is an awareness of change on a holistic scale of "geo" (the Earth). In addition, Japanese culture contains a vast amount of wisdom for connecting with the Earth in a Lemma-like way. How can we rediscover it, and use it in new ways? From the "geo" point of view, the COVID-19 pandemic can be seen as the result of excess rationalization and globalization cutting down the "space" (ma) between all relationships on Earth. We need to rebuild this sense of distance to one that is just right once more. It will be a grand challenge to remake all the Logos-like structures of human consciousness and the body, society, and civilization into a new, complex system that incorporates the Lemma-based logic of nature and the wild. The first step toward this great change is for Sony itself to embody a new philosophy—in other words, to become a "Geo-Sony". If Sony can take this stand, I'm sure it will open up many new prospects and possibilities for them.
July 30, 2020 at Institute pour la Science Sauvage, Meiji University