Regional Reports on AI Ethics: JAPAN

Reprinted from EADv2 Regional Reports on A/IS Ethics: JAPAN, in Regional Reports on A/IS Ethics, December, 12, 2017, pp. 2-10

Discussions on artificial intelligence and ethics/society are carried out within and between various academic, government, and NPO/Network institutions in Japan. Each organization has its own focus, such as: “AI and professionalism,” “AI/robot and law,” “AI network system,” “Alife,” “Deep learning,” “Whole brain architecture” and etc. These are the organizations/institutions that lead the discussion on AI Ethics, while many other communities remain active.

Most reports introduced below can be read in English, and the summary is extracted from those reports. Therefore, if the readers of this report want to search for further information, they are welcome to visit the relevant websites and read the original documents.



The Ethics committee of the Japanese Society for Artificial Intelligence (JSAI)

The committee consists of 9 members and 3 observers, most of which are AI researchers, but the group also includes a Science Fiction writer, a STS researcher, and a journalist. Since its establishment in 2014, the Ethics Committee of the Japanese Society for Artificial Intelligence (JSAI) has been exploring the relationship between artificial intelligence research/technology and society. In February 2017, it released the “Japanese Society for Artificial Intelligence Ethical Guidelines”[1], prioritizing “contribution to humanity (article 1)” as its most important objective.

The Guidelines were firstly created as a Code of Ethics, and as such include professional ethical guidance such as “act with integrity (article 6)” and “communication with society and self-development (article 8).” Above all, article 9, the “abidance of ethics guidelines by AI” emphasizes the reflexive nature of the Guidelines, and reflects its unique characteristics. The Guidelines are not intended to come into practice immediately, but are meant to promote various questions to deepen discussions between researchers and society, and to formulate a conversation that would lead to the efficient use of artificially intelligent technology in society.

The ethics committee held an open discussion in June 2017, inviting Danit Gal, chair of the Outreach Committee at the IEEE Global Initiative for Ethical Considerations in Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems to participate in the discussion[2]. Video messages from John C. Havens, executive director of IEEE Global Initiative introducing “Ethically Aligned Design version 1”, and Richard Mallah, director of AI Projects at the Future of Life Institute, introducing the “Asilomar AI Principles” were also displayed at the event. The committee confirmed its intention to hold future collaborations with the IEEE and Future of Life Institute. JSAI also now collaborates with AI Initiatives organized by The Future Society and encouraging Japanese people to join the AI Initiative[3].


JSAI Ethical Guidelines

  1. Contribution to humanity
  2. Abidance of laws and regulations
  3. Respect for the privacy of others
  4. Fairness
  5. Security
  6. Act with integrity
  7. Accountability and social responsibility
  8. Communication with society and self-development
  9. Abidance of ethics guidelines by AI


RIKEN Center for AIP

The RIKEN Center for Advanced Intelligence Project[4] was launched in April 2016 under the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, with an operational scope including the “Advanced Integrated Intelligence Platform Project (AIP)”, which focuses on Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Internet of Things, and Cybersecurity”.  The center aims to achieve scientific breakthrough and contribute to the welfare of society and humanity through developing innovative technologies. It also conducts research on ethical, legal and social issues brought about by the spread of AI technology and development of human resources[5].

With the Center, the Artificial Intelligence in Society Research Group, consisting of 8 teams (Oct 2017), deals with matters such as privacy and social systems, artificial intelligence ethics and society, and information law.


Robot Law study group, The Information Network Law Association

The study group was established in 2016 as a subcommittee of the information Network Law Association, and discusses the legal issues around realizing a society where human beings and robots coexists[6].



The Conference toward AI Network Society, Institute for Information and Communications Policy (IICP), the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC)

IICP is one of the institutes of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications aimed at promoting basic research activities of information and communications policy. In 2015, IICP released a report titled “Study Group concerning the Vision of the Future Society Brought by Accelerated Advancement of Intelligence in ICT.” This study group consists of 12 stakeholders from industry and academia in a wide range of fields. The report discusses: (1) How the changes in human society will alter the relationship between humans and machines as well as the relationship among humans, and hereby what kind of changes will occur in human society? (2) What should humankind do in order to utilize the newly emerging technologies and systems (as precisely defined below, “Intelligent ICT”) well now[7].

In 2016, the “Conference on Networking among AIs” was organized with about 37 participants, mainly consisting of academic researchers in a wide range of fields. The concept of “AI Networking” indicates networking among AI systems. It also generated the concept of “Wisdom Network Society” as a desirable society to be built. The draft of AI R&D Guidelines released as a result of the conference consists of 8 articles. The Final Report was released in 2016 and the draft of Guidelines were presented at G7 ICT Ministers’ Meeting in Takamatsu, Kagawa. This led to the formulation of the G7/8 ICT Ministers Meetings’ statement in Turin, Italy[8].

In 2017, the “Conference toward AI Network Society” was organized with about 33 participants. The conference has two subcommittees: the committee on AI R&D Principles (37 people) and the committee on Impact and Risk Assessment (34 people)[9]. The members of the conference and subcommittees are from academia, industry, and civil society. They released their report on July 2017, which consisted of the draft of AI R&D guidelines with 9 principles for international discussions. It also includes an impact assessment of AI network society, which is based on case study scenarios of mobility, education, healthcare, etc.

The draft of guidelines aims to protect the interests of users and deter the spread of risks, thus realizing a human-centered “Wisdom Network Society” by way of increasing the benefits and mitigating the risks of AI systems through the sound progress or AI networks. The first principle is the “principle of collaboration”. It concerns the development of AI networking and the promotion of the benefit of AI systems. Principles 2 to 7 mainly deal with the mitigation of risks associated with AI systems such as the “principle of transparency,” “principle of controllability,” and “principle of privacy.” Principles 8 and 9 emphasize improvements in acceptance by users[10]. The MIC also held an International Forum toward AI network Society on March 13 and 14, 2017[11]. As for the next steps, the MIC are considering the creation of a “Utilization Guidelines” draft.


AI R&D Principles

(Principles mainly concerning the sound development of AI networking and the promotion of the benefits of AI systems)

  1. Principle of collaboration―Developers should pay attention to the interconnectivity and interoperability of AI systems.(Principles mainly concerning the mitigation of risks associated with AI systems)
  2. Principle of transparency―Developers should pay attention to the verifiability of inputs/outputs of AI systems and the explainability of their judgments.
  3. Principle of controllability―Developers should pay attention to the controllability of AI systems.
  4. Principle of safety―Developers should take it into consideration that AI systems will not harm the life, body, or property of users or third parties through actuators or other devices.
  5. Principle of security―Developers should pay attention to the security of AI systems.
  6. Principle of privacy―Developers should take it into consideration that AI systems will not infringe the privacy of users or third parties.
  7. Principle of ethics―Developers should respect human dignity and individual autonomy in R&D of AI systems.(Principles mainly concerning improvements in acceptance by users et al.)
  8. Principle of user assistance―Developers should take it into consideration that AI systems will support users and make it possible to give them opportunities for choice in appropriate manners.
  9. Principle of accountability―Developers should make efforts to fulfill their accountability to stakeholders, including AI systems’ users.


The Advisory Board on Artificial Intelligence and Human Society, the Cabinet Office

The Japanese government introduced a new concept, “society 5.0,” in its 5th Science and Technology Basic Plan (2016–2020), as a way of guiding and mobilizing action in science, technology, and innovation to achieve a prosperous, sustainable, and inclusive future. This future is within the context of the ever-growing digitalization and connectivity and is empowered by the advancement of AI. On the one hand, AI technologies are expected to bring tremendous benefits to human society. On the other hand, they raise Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications (ELSI). In May 2016, the Advisory Board on Artificial Intelligence and Human Society was set up under the initiative of the Minister of State for Science and Technology Policy. It was established with the aim of assessing different societal issues that could be raised by the development and deployment of AI, and to discuss its implications for society[12]. The advisory board consists of 12 members with various backgrounds in fields such as engineering, philosophy, law, economics, and social sciences. The final report on Artificial Intelligence and Human Society was published on March 24th, 2017[13].

The Advisory Board focused on realistic and significant examples that are current or foreseeable for the near future. The Board’s objective was to clarify what benefits are expected, what issues are to be considered, what issues are to be resolved, and what attitudes are beneficial. Digitalization processes that cannot be dissociated from AI technologies were included in the discussions. Given that AI technologies are being applied in various fields, the Advisory Board took a case-based approach that dealt with various cases in the four representative categories: mobility, manufacturing, personal services, and conversation/communication. The Advisory Board aimed to clarify common key issues around AI technologies in these four categories from 6 points of view: ethical, legal, economic, educational, social, and research and development issues. A matrix was created in which the columns indicated four categories and the rows represented the six points of view[14].


Strategic Council for AI Technology

The Council was established with under the instructions issued by the Prime Minister in the “Public-Private Dialogue towards Investment for the Future” in 2016. Their report was published in March 2017[15].

The Council, acting as a control tower, has come to manage five National Research and Development Agencies that fall under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, and Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. In addition to promoting the research and development of AI technology, the Council coordinates with industries related to the ones that utilize AI (so-called “exit industries”), and is moving forward with the social implementation of AI technology. The Council aims to create R&D development goals and roadmap for industrialization. The roadmap focuses priority areas such as “productivity” “health, medical care, and welfare” and “mobility.” It also emphasizes the importance of coordination with the three research centers:

  1. Center for Information and Neural Networks (CiNet) and Universal Communication Research Institute (UCRI) of the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT)
  2. RIKEN Center for Advanced Intelligence Project (AIP) of the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN)
  3. Artificial Intelligence Research Center (AIRC) of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST)


AI and Society

A 2-day Symposium (10-11 October) on AI and society organized by the Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Research Center of the University of Tokyo took place in Tokyo this fall[16]. The IEEE Global Initiative for Ethical Considerations in Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems is listed as a partner. The symposium invited speakers from industry and academia to exchange ideas about the practical applications of AI technologies and possible future developments. It aimed to create an opportunity to hold an international discourse on social impacts arising from new AI technologies within Japanese industry and academia[17].

On 12th October, the event Beneficial AI Tokyo was held to discuss effective ways to build cooperation for beneficial AI. The conference was organized by The Leverhulme Centre for Future of Intelligence (CFI), The Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER), Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Research Center of the University of Tokyo (AI Center), and Araya, Inc.



ALIFE Lab. is a platform for accelerating the co-creation between ALife (Artificial Life) scientists and those who are in other “creative” fields such as art, games, design, music, and fashion. Founded on the basis of the Japanese Society for Artificial Intelligence and the International Society for Artificial Life, it aims to establish a community to discuss the future of the society, from anthropocene to AI/ALIFE-pocene[18]. The ALIFE Lab. sits on the organizing committee of the 2018 Conference of Artificial Life (ALIFE 2018), alongside the hybrid of the European Conference on Artificial Life (ECAL), and the International Conference on the Synthesis and Simulation of Living Systems (ALife). The conference will be held in Japan[19].


Japan Deep Learning Association (JDLA)

Established in June 2017, the association aims to enhance the competitiveness of the Japanese industry with the help of Deep Learning-based innovative technologies[20]. By introducing Deep Learning certification systems and guaranteeing that individuals who receive the certificate meet necessary requirements, the Association will contribute to the development of human resources able to apply Deep Learning technologies correctly. It also aims to contribute to other organizations in creating guidelines, considering the ethical aspects of deep learning technologies, and encouraging effective communications with society.


The Whole Brain Architecture Initiative (WBAI)

A nonprofit organization, the Whole Brain Architecture Initiative was established August 2015, with the mission of creating and engineering a human-like artificial general intelligence (AGI) by learning from the architecture of the entire brain[21]. It presents the prospects of the development process[22] and supports the development of AGI by open R&D communities contributing to society on a long-term basis[23].



[1] The creation and aims of guidelines are introduced in the web in English (, and the guideline can be read in English ( and in Korean (인공지능학회-윤리지침-20170303-KoNIBP.pdf).

[2] Report ( and the summary report ( in English available.

[3] AI Initiative has Japanese page ( and the ethics committee opens a special website introducing the director Cyrus Hodes’s message (




[7] English abstract is available ( and Japanese website available (


[9] Referred the list of the report (

[10] The English report available ( and whole Japanese report available (


[12] The final report in English is available (

[13] Report in Japanese and appendix are available (

[14] Matrix for deriving common issues across cases in English is available (

[15] Report in English available (, Japanese website (










Written by: Arisa EMA
Assistant Professor, The University of Tokyo
Visiting Researcher, RIKEN AIP Center