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On May 10, the US Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) hosted a summit at the White House titled Artificial Intelligence for American Industry. The gathering of more than 100 senior government officials, technical experts from top academic institutions, heads of industrial research labs, and representa­tives of 36 companies discussed artificial intelligence (AI) research and development and the application of the technology to industries such as manufacturing, financial services, transportation and logistics, and healthcare.

It’s that last one that we talk about in this issue of The ACCJ Journal, and the story that you will find here connected with me on a personal level. AI, coupled with virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), promises to revolutionize medical procedures.

Over the past two years, I have undergone eye surgery five times. Each time I go under the knife, I hope that, when the bandages come off, my vision will be restored—but the results have been less than ideal. Yet, I know that achieving even this level of repair would have been difficult 10 years ago.

What does the next decade hold? What if my surgeon could go through the procedure multiple times in VR—using a computer-generated model of my retina—assisted by AI that has run through all the variables and formulated the most effective treatment? The possibilities are exciting.

But healthcare is just one of the areas set to be revolutionized by AI. Ian Buck, vice president of the Accelerated Computing business unit at NVIDIA, which makes graphics processing units, was one of the industry leaders who attended the OSTP summit. He also testified recently before the US Congress, saying: “AI represents the biggest technological and economic shift in our lifetime. The stakes are huge—trillions of dollars in opportunity for American companies.”

It could also be a big shift for Japan. The report How AI Boosts Industry Profits and Innovation, published in 2017 by global consultant Accenture, predicts that Japan’s annual growth rate will get a 1.9-percent lift from AI by 2035. To achieve this, however, Japan must not lose momentum. Although it became the second country to unveil a national AI strategy plan in 2017—Canada was the first in 2016—the 2018 AI budget of ¥77.04 billion ($694 million) is about 20 percent less than that of the United States.

Despite its higher spending, the United States has no national strategy, which brings us back to the OSTP summit. A US plan combined with that of Japan’s Artificial Intelligence Technology Strategy Council could allow the two countries to lead the way. It’s a huge opportunity for the bilateral relationship that could bring great benefits—and better health—to us all.

Christopher Bryan Jones is Editor-in-Chief of The ACCJ Journal. Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, he has lived in Japan since 1997.
AI represents the biggest technological and economic shift in our lifetime.