Society 5.0: Building Technology-based, Human-centered Society

The topic of Society 5.0, which is reflective of future of Mankind through Digital Transformation, is rather close to my heart. Being engaged with B20, over years as an active participant and even as Co-Chair of the ‘Digital Economy & Industry 4.0’ Taskforce at Business 20 (B20) at Argentina in 2018, it’s given a up close insight of facets of the how ‘Digital Transformation’ (which is also current B20 Italy TF) is exponentially changing the future for our Species.

One is grimly aware of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has brutally impacted most of the globe effecting millions of lives & livelihoods. What started out as a Health disaster, now has evidently mutated to a devastating economic, social, and geo-political crisis. The country just come out scared from the second wave. The predictions of the third wave, probably many more; through various mathematical models get scarier. One may term it as a worst ‘Humanitarian Crisis’ of the century.

We are at a pivotal point in history. One can profess that as pandemics are often mark a new chapter in history, we are witnessing this for this contagion too. One is experiencing the exponential adaption of Technology in our daily lives. It’s re-booting our lives & how we engage with not only external world but our own physical self too. These Technological Mega Trends were very much prevalent pre-COVID, however, this contagion accelerated it.

Technology adaption

If we were to scan the last 40 plus years, the phase from the 1980s to 2000 a period where Technological growth was slow, it was beginning to change us but we didn’t try to feel it yet and then we enter a period of disruptive growth. During that explosive disruptive growth we saw plummeting cost to micro-processors, sensors, band width & global connectivity. The Moore’s law proved itself & continued to do so over the last 50 years. If one was to compare the first commercial product in 1971 of Intel termed 4004, to intel’s i7 processor; the processing speed is tens of million times faster. Why we’re able to do the things that we do, it’s right here, it’s that transformation tens of million times faster over the course of 45 years.

Technology is now the ‘defining factor’ of our society. We are able to travel virtually to the most amazing places directly from our living room or using our mobile devices. Billions of devices and objects are already connected on Internet of Things (IoT). We’re heading towards a world of a trillion sensors where everything is being seen and measured. And known fast forward 10 years later now, we’ve got 500 billion connected devices 100 trillion sensors everywhere.

Soon, technology is moving inside of us, becoming a part of us. Our contact lenses will be connected to the internet and nanobots will be in our bloodstreams, fixing our cholesterol. The advancement in Biotech is progressing to unimaginable level.  Your connected car, your smart fridge, your wearables, will talk to your doctor and your insurance company. Yes, indeed, data is the new oil.

This DATA with mega computational power provided by quantum computers will power AI. It’s predicted as early as 2030s in 9 years, with synaptic connections millions or may a billion humans, the AI could transform into a version way more intelligent than Siri or Google.

Possibility of Science Fictional Jarvis of (Iron Man) Fame could be a reality. We all may have a version of Jarvis, who will be talking, listening. Jarvis could perform your mundane tasks, read your emails, watch what you’re eating, look at your cholesterol levels besides is sorting your appointments & giving you all the information you need just in time. Possibilities are endless. Man and machine will converge.

These exponential changes are unstoppable. Over the next 15 years, every technological limitation will virtually vanish. Imagine virtually unlimited processing power, global access to real-time data, machines that can move around like we do, and as I just mentioned then even faster breakthroughs in artificial intelligence and deep learning.

Are we about to transcend humanity? Is it creepy or useful? Is it heaven or hell? What will it mean to be human, in a world where everyone will need to be amplified or augmented by algorithms? Does The future, excite you or are you worried?

Clearly, competing with such powerful machines on their turf has no future. Working like a robot has no future. Learning like a robot has no future. It’s a recipe for permanent unemployment. When artificial intelligence meets human intelligence, it’s the end of routine, as we know it. But take heart, this is not the end of our jobs, it’s not the end of our work, it’s not the end of our purpose. Rather, a new age of ‘human-only work’ is beginning.

Humans are ingenious, can easily deal with unforeseen events, complex challenges requiring judgement, intuition, and improvisation. Whatever is easy for a computer is hard for humans and vice versa. This will be true for the foreseeable future.

Let’s take a pause and reflect on the current state of Society of Humans, which may be termed as Society 4.0 & see are we in control & driving change or just be driven by it? Think from a paradigm of abundance. Try to discover new opportunities in one of the most transformational time in human History.

Introducing Society 5.0

I just mention Human History & Humanity currently in era we may term as Society 4.0. For better understanding let me expand the landscape to longer view on Human History dating back to very beginning of a social structure, which is termed as Hunting gathering society. Homo sapiens of the time were living in symbiosis with nature. The primary goal of humanity was survive & maintain continuity as a species. This also warranted to function in small tribes; So let’s term it as Society 1.0. 

Curiosity and explorations are integral parts of the human nature. Not satisfied to be entirely dependent of nature, Humans studied it & started agriculture to not be just dependent on nature. This we see as the emergence of farming society leading to a more structural form or society 2.0. 

Then, with the invention of steam, & finally electricity, Humanity opened the door to the mass production & technology to weaving cloth. Along with it came the social dimension, we know as division of Labor. The one Adam Smith wrote about in way back in 1776 AD. So, let’s term it industry & Society 3.0.

And today we are experiencing digital transformation, this era is commonly termed as the Information Age or evolution of Society 4.0. I described that earlier in greater detail.

We have its challenges too. It’s technology in all its powerful avatar is what’s helping us with the current COVID crisis. So, as a Society we have to take control of designing the future to make it ‘Human-Centric’. We, as Humans, need to transcend machines & AI using traits such as creativity imagination, intuition, emotion and ethics to model the future.

Well one frame which may be relevant has been put forward by Japan termed as Society 5.0.

Being the Co-Chair of the Task Force Digital Economy & Indus 4.0 at B20 Argentina, I along with other members of B20 were introduced to the concept of Society 5.0 Japan at the final conference in Buenos Aires. Japan made it the central theme of their Presidency of the G20 and made it focus of B20 in 2019. Since then, it has been recognised as possible frame to address the challenges faced by Humanity. Currently being addressed by B20 Italy by ‘Digital Transformation’ Task Force.

Let me again underscore that Society 5.0 is a framework or a templet to leverage, converge technology to focus on being Human Centric & solve the challenges being faced by the people of their country. I eluded to fact how various form of Technology is evolving, the idea of the framework of Society 5.0 is to use the prowess of digital transformation with limitless growth the only limit if any would only be the Imagination & creativity of Humans themselves. This would strategically engage diverse people & all stake holders to focus on making development sustainable & Human Centric.

Society 5.0 – An overarching theme for attainment of SDGs

If this frame was to be adopted by any other country, it would have to be trailered with nuanced micro deployment. The common denominator is the Sustainable Development Goals, which was agreed at the United Nations Member States in 2015. All the countries agreed to renew their effort to take on this very ambitious goal for Humanity on the planet. It was termed as “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. Our government too is committed to this agenda, in April of this year NITI Aayog published ‘SDG India Index & Dashboard 20-21’. All the countries are strategizing to achieve these goals by engaging Multiple Stakeholders & using the resources available. UN too published a report “The Future is Now” Science for achieving Sustainable development.

The point Underscored is that the core is Sustainable Development for the Humanity at large, The Goals have been set along with the time line by consensus at the UN. The How is left to countries to evolve.

Let us look at two SDGs for better understanding i.e. SDG 3, Health & wellbeing for all & SDG 4, Quality Education.

SDG 3 Good Health & Well Being:

The objective of SDG 3 is to ensure healthy lives & promote well-being for all at all ages. Objective of Society 5.0 frame is to improve quality & healthy life expectancy & the vitality of individual citizens. The approach is to digitalise the health parameters of the individuals through collection, linkage, and use of life-course data. Second approach is attaining advancement in biotech through unravelling mechanisms of the human body. Third, by development of next-generation medicines and deployment of new integrated healthcare services and fourth, through a new healthcare ecosystem design. Also, it aspires to develop early warning alert system for the prevention of infectious diseases by combining different types of monitoring data. Its Japanese society is confronted with Hyper-aging challenges however, there’s a lot of learning for other countries including India to build robust Primary Heath Care ecosystem digitisation. The current crisis has already pointed the way to remote diagnostic & consultation. Although it needs to be extended to the rural & remote area of our country. Given the limited Health Care Workforce & large population the recent crisis has pointed to the urgency of remote access through digital platforms.

It’s also important to underscore the fact that the Current Health Care crisis led to collaboration between the scientific community to develop not only the Vaccine but also diagnostics & therapeutics.

SDG 4 Quality Education:

The objective of SDG 4 is to ensure inclusive & equitable quality education & promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. Despite progress, the world is not on track to meet 2030 education targets. Even Pre-coronavirus crisis, projections showed that more than 200 million children would be out of school, and only 60 per cent of young people would be completing upper secondary education in 2030.

Education systems worldwide have been hit hard and abruptly by the pandemic. School closures to stop the spread of COVID-19 have affected the vast majority of the world’s student population. Disrupted education is adversely affecting learning outcomes and social and behavioural development of children and youth.

With online education becoming the new normal since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, digital divide, be it access to modern communications devices, internet connectivity, skilling, or even a quite learning space, stare at the globe it leaves many students out of the online learning medium. It is said that when education is interrupted, it affects everyone and all of us pay the price. As a result, students from different backgrounds, geographies, communities, lose their chance to develop innovative solutions and be responsible citizens. Need of the hour is deploying an operational method which can be integrated into our school education system.

We must step up our efforts to reimagine education – training teachers, bridging the digital divide and rethinking curricula to equip learners with the skills and knowledge to flourish in our rapidly changing world.

We’re in an era with knowledge accessible through a digital device in your pocket, making a vast reservoir of information handy that not only can turn any expert into a layman or any layman into an expert. It calls for a very different paradigm of learning. In light of this, I would leave this topic with few questions. Questions being: What if education actually helped us to discover how we can thrive as humans, not as better robots? What if routine work was replaced by the adventure of vocational careers? What if learning were actually lifelong and full of reinvention?

The Dark Side of Technology

Let’s also look briefly at the downside of Technology.

This is a vast subject in itself, a subject which fuelled by Science fiction has sometimes more myth & less reality. For example the its essential differentiate between Intelligence & Consciousness. We, as homo-sapiens, have both, less or more, is not the points. The Machines or Robots powered with AI would just have Intelligence, more than individual Human beings, but would not have the Consciousness. Most of the Futurologist agree that it’s highly unlikely that in near or even in the medium-term future, AI will grow a consciousness & start having feeling & desires of its own & start annihilating the Humans. Long-Term Humans too may use AI & Biotech to build a Super-Human Race too, Yuval Harari writes about it, in his book ‘Homo-Deus’. But that’s too far out in the future. So, let me take a stab the dark side of technology in the time horizon of our discourse today. Like any other tool, cuts both ways. By helping solve & alleviate Human misery or be the very cause of it.

The one that is most challenging is the ‘Digital Divide’. Which can be fixed, whoever, needs vast resources of the Government & collaboration of all stakeholders. The good news is that the price of digital devices is plummeting exponentially too. There is trade-off between DATA Privacy & health care, which needs addressal; Multiplying the spread of misinformation; Mega Tech Firms using AI have asymmetrical advantage, exploit privacy and autonomy of their users; Toxic side of looking at the screen, Cyber Crimes, etc.

The historian & thought leader Yuval Harari talks of “How confluence of Big Data, AI and Biotech which is already predicting your choices. Most of us would know when Amazon, YouTube, Facebook, Netflix learns from what you’re buying & watching to throw similar content at you every time you login. Once your Biological parameters, too, are known, combing it with one’s traits, the Algorithms could one better than one oneself.

As much as we all like to believe we make decisions based on sound logic, stats, and reason – this simply isn’t the case. People act on emotion. And scientifically speaking, emotion is a chemical reaction. If one can decipher what induces ‘Dopamine’, Cortisol, Oxytocin or Endorphin, in us Well, then that entity just knows us better than ourselves it can easily manipulate us. This is where Harari says the humans could be “Hack” by an AI monitoring us. Meaning AI & whoever which controlling it be it the Governments or the Tech Corporations could subconsciously direct the mind of unsuspecting human to take decision desired to serve their narrow needs. So, algorithms decide how we communicate with each other they decide how we buy things they can even be used to manipulate entire elections as we’ve. Professor Harari thinks it still fixable. It’s larger question discourse & debate.

Is Regulatory Framework & it’s stricter deployment the answer? However, it’s known fact that Regulation can hardly keep pace with the technology which is evolving at an exponential scale. One has to look Beyond regulation which brings to domain of Ethics, Morales & Values.

I will leave it here for a food for thought & how you would want take control of the future & design it rather than be consumed by it.

Use case of Technology in Solving a Societal problem

Here is one case study of human-centric, human-technology collaboration in solving real societal issue. Many research reports show that driving behaviour contributes about 90% of the critical issues on road those cause accidents. Kantar IMRB in association with Castrol India also did a month-long research and suggest that over 25,000 deaths in truck accidents happened due to dangerous driving. To prevent such mishappening, our Robotics company The Hi-Tech Robotic Systemz, has deployed a Driver State Monitoring System (DMS) that has been named as “Apka Apna Farishta” i.e. Your Own (life-saving) God” by Daimler. The device is now fitted in every heavy duty BharatBenz truck that detects the drowsiness, inattention and even mood of driver and provides a real-time warning to the driver.  It also provides insights to fleet owners for training / warning and thereby averting accidents on road. In this way, we are able to save many precious lives and solving this societal problem.

Building an ecosystem for technology adaption and promoting innovation

To address the core issue, and in order to prepare the workforce of future, we also conceived the idea of a human-centric Robotics & AI centre and one such centre has already started functioning at Mayo College, Ajmer. The basic idea is to make students familiar, positive and comfortable to the technology, and not to be overwhelmed.

In this endeavour, teachers and educators also have a crucial role to play –

  • Igniting curiosity in young minds / leaders of tomorrow (and themselves) for Digitalisation, Robotics, A.I. and other newer technologies.
  • Inspiring imagination & creativity for human-technology collaboration.


About a decade back, I had an opportunity of meeting with Shimon Peres, president of Israel and had the privilege and owner to share the dinner table with him. And he spoke about his vision of Israel. There he mentioned that with the advert of technology how come the education system of Israel changed with students have access to knowledge which is right there right now through Google.

Our educators are dealing with the Generation ‘Z’ students. This generation is most commonly referred to as digital natives and this term says it all. The fact is that they’ve never experienced the world without the internet, without cell phones, without complete access to the entire world, and if that’s the case then that means that to these students, technology is less of a device that they possess and more of an environment that they cohabit. That’s the reason, it calls for a lot of responsibility to the teachers to explain how:

  • Technology represents the How of change, but humans represent the why.
  • It’s Humanity is where true and lasting value is created.
  • Life will be magical. Abundant. Full of possibilities.
  • The future doesn’t just happen the future gets happened either being proactively designing it or being lax & let it happen by default.

Technology wave is given, so let’s not be in denial. The only way is to embrace technology but not to become it.

The future is in technology, yet the bigger future lies in transcending it – Being more Human than ever before!

Note: This is an extract is from the keynote address given by Mr. Deep Kapuria, at the IPSC Techers’ Concave 2021, organized by Mayo College, Ajmer.

You may also like...