Hackernoon logoIs "Society 5.0" Supplementing AI as Technology's Latest and Greatest Snake Oil? by@joey

Is "Society 5.0" Supplementing AI as Technology's Latest and Greatest Snake Oil?

Joey Bertschler Hacker Noon profile picture

@joeyJoey Bertschler


Photo Credit, Jeremy Weate

Society 5.0 envisions a smart city as you would expect it. Drone deliveries, everything is IoT and automation wherever possible. Buzzwords include sustainability, Artificial Intelligence and the usual 2017 onward Blockchain shebang.

The idea is that Society 1.0 were the hunter-gatherers followed by agriculture (2), industrialization (3), information (4), and now the "super-smart-society" (5) or how some may call it: I-sure-hope-robots-do-not-take-over.

Beyond power-point presentations and fund raisers, the concepts around smart cities sound like a lofty vision with no clear prospect of how or when it would actually unfold - but fair enough, we are getting there.

Been there, done that

Electric cars have been around since the 1800s, but it took centuries and one man from South Africa to change this (left) to this (right).

Fair enough, we had a few decent models, but electric cars never had the hype and dominance they have today. Smart cities aren't all that different.

Virtually all of the key components needed to build them have been around for quite a while, yet we barely see any drones in the city skies, cars have drivers and there is no bar code on our wrists yet either.

Ultimately, it all comes down to outstanding individuals and regulations.

"Like all innovations that pose a risk to life and property, drone technology has several problems to solve before it can be incorporated into the global economy and airspace of nations around the world" write Anthony DiNota, Steve Douglas, and Dave Marcontell on Forbes.

The smart city vision goes something like this. "The refrigerator orders itself full and tractors make the food on the field autonomously. Also: Robots"

Technology and innovation policies have now become a mainstream political agenda. Let's look at Japan, a country infamous for it's love for tech and robots.

Japanโ€™s regular budget for science and technology stayed pretty much the same for decades (e.g. 2002 to 2017) at around 3.6 trillion yen (US$33 billion or in other words: a lot, but always the same).

It suddenly shot up to 3.8 trillion yen (US$35 billion) in 2018 then to 4.2 trillion yen (US$38 billion) in 2019 (or in other words: increasingly more 'lots').

Technology is the new word for magic

Tech has become the new snake oil. Especially artificial intelligence. From healing diseases to becoming immortal, new scientific discoveries and advancements have sheer limitless potential. But there is something else drawing us in: money.

If we google up the richest people on earth we find investors, oil people and tech. Lots and lots of tech. From Bill Gates, to Mark Zuckerberg, to Jeff Bezos. They are infamous, their companies become huge and everyone wants to be in early (keyword: unicorns).

Investments follow the same 3-step-plan that Blockchain start-ups, dot.com bubble or ICO investors did.

1. Invest in [tech] start-up. Much AI. Very Blockchain.
2. Value goes wow
3. Cash out (bro down)

Governments are committed: Smart Cities it is

Developed countries follow a pattern. They rise, they grow and then they experience prolonged economic stagnation.

The recipe is consistent: ever-intensifying competition on a global scale, changing structure of value creation, depopulation and ageing, and growing fiscal pressure from rising government expenditure on social security and justice.

The answer: technology. The problem: the lack of it

Dear Hackers: How many more times will we find ourselves at a supposedly futuristic state-of-the-art tech expo just to be presented with the same ol' recognition presentation?

We need competition

When companies are looking for talent they increasingly more ask for one thing: experience. But not CVs. Winners of data science competitions (Pro tip below)* Software portfolios. Former senior employees of tech giants or to sum it up: results.

You could have been a Kindergarten dropout but if you also happened to build the next big thing after Blockchain, you're the man (or woman).

The key to the city: functioning tech

It's not about reinventing the wheel, but change doesn't happen in tiny increments either. Remember the steam engine? Electricity? The internet? These were the game changers that moved the world. Another example? 7-eleven.

7-eleven was suddenly everywhere. We didn't see it coming. There was no hype. The convenience store chain just slipped into our lives subtly and now it's a billion dollar company. Why? A good product. Simple.

Another example is Uni Me. It's nothing flashy, the page clearly wasn't written by a native speaker, yet it has an edge: it works. It's a chatbot that works and doesn't cost a penny. Now I'm not going to list my top 20 tool recommendations here, but I wanted to include this example for a good reason: it's overlooked. Many are.

Stop the funding

Make fun of it all you want, but a google site is up lightening fast, costs literally nothing, has a 5 minute learning curve and, done right, outperforms any word-press or hard-coded web-page on most verticals.

It's 80/20 once again. Start with templates and drafts and start hiring a qualified well audited pro later. Enough of the cheap-labor-MVP's that are never up. The Beta releases that never turn into something that has legs.


The desired smart city, the Society 5.0, isn't going to pop up anywhere anytime soon - but it's coming and tech companies that we won't have on our radar until 4-X years later but that are already out there will be on the forefront.

Let's hope artistic gifs like this one from Uni World will take shape and bring upon these awesome green cities before we destroyeour environment so much that have to build them on Mars.

*Pro-tip: There is a lot of noise on Kaggle nowadays, so it can be hard to stand out. That's why good courses such as LinkedIn learning (they have a free trial) and smaller platforms such as bitgrit (not nearly as many competitors) can be a great place to boost your value as 'the tech guy'.


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