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Kokoro, or Consumers’ Orientations in the Post-Singularity Era

Research Topic
Kokoro, or Consumers’ Orientations in the Post-Singularity Era

Lead Researcher
Yoshinori Hiroi, Professor, Kokoro Research Center, Kyoto University

Center Co-Researchers
Seiji Kumagai, Associate Professor, Kokoro Research Center, Kyoto University
Shinsuke Shimojo, Specially Appointed Professor, Kokoro Research Center, Kyoto University
Akinori Yasuda, Researcher, Kokoro Research Center, Kyoto University

The Singularity Theory (Technological Singularity), proposed by the American futurologist Ray Kurtzweil, hypothezes that in the not-too-distant future (for example around 2045), technological growth, particularly in genetics, nano-technology and robotic engineering, will result in unfathomable breakthroughs in which highly developed artificial intelligence and physically remodeled humans will create super-beings.

The basis of Kurtzweil’s argument lies in a certain optimism, or scientific universalism, called “techno-utopia”, and a Western modern scientific view of nature and the world, in which humans are believed to be infinitely capable of controlling nature and life.

However, in developed countries, where material and consumption demands have matured and saturated contemporary society, people are more interested in “gross national happiness” (GNH), such as that measured in Bhutan, and the richness of kokoro, well-being and mental satisfaction. There has been a rise in interest in local communities and the reevaluation of traditional culture and “slow life” movements.

If we call the trajectory of the Singularity hypothesis “super-information technology”, “super-industrialization”, “super-capitalism”, and also call it “post-information technology, post-industrialization, post-capitalism”, what becomes of the future society and us in the 21st century? And what happens between the two totally different vectors?

To answer this question, we need to take into consideration if what the Singularity theory proposes is deeply connected to modern science and capitalism. We also need to be open to a very long-term perspective that includes the past, present and future to re-think the evolution of our society and ideas. At the same time, it is important to pay attention to spatial expansiveness in locating Asian and Japanese traditional culture in the global context. Based on this awareness and using the Singularity as a reference axis, this project aims to gain a very long-term outlook that looks at where society and “kokoro” are going in 2100 and the 21st century. The research includes Japan and Asian traditional values and localities such as Buddhist traditions and nature worship symbolized by “the groves of village shrines”.