National | DAVOS SPECIAL 2015

Forging better Japan through 'quiet revolution'

by Atsushi Kodera

Staff Writer

Entrepreneur Yoshito Hori has a strong sense of mission to guide Japan to become a better place as it undergoes what he calls a “quiet revolution,” and he thinks his role is outside of politics.

Hori, the president of Globis University and managing partner of Globis Capital Partners, sees limits to what politicians can do, especially when it comes to having the public swallow bitter pills. He specifically points to the divisive issue of social welfare reform, which faces resistance from those facing cuts in benefits even though it’s an urgent issue facing Japan’s rapidly aging population.

“We need social welfare reform, but no politicians address it in elections. When the situation comes to this, it’s time for us in the private sector to raise our voices and convince the public at large.”

Hori, who will join the upcoming annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, from Jan. 21, has been a regular participant since 2002.

Exchanging views, debating issues facing the world and holding discussions with leaders in politics, academia and business from around the world, Hori has sharpened his sense of mission to lead the world in becoming a better place.

That sense of mission led him to start the G1 Summit, which he positions as a Japanese version of the Davos meeting. Started in 2009, the annual event has provided a forum where leaders from politicians and businesspeople to actors and athletes discuss a multitude of issues faced by the nation.

The forum is aimed at bringing together participants to come face-to-face with issues that politicians may find difficult to address, discuss them, and start a wave of change to break through the barriers of social taboos and vested interests.

“That will ultimately make it easier for politicians to voice their opinions, which in turn would lead to actual legislation,” he said. “That’s the idea.”

Hori hopes such a process will become a driving force behind what he calls a “quiet revolution,” a significant change taking place in Japan that’s reshaping the way opinions and policies are formed outside the conventional framework of democracy.

“And this revolution has made Japan more globalized, entrepreneurial, innovative and assertive, and Japan now doesn’t compromise on what it thinks is right,” he said.

Having examined past examples from the French and Russian revolutions to Japan’s Meiji Restoration, Hori theorizes that past revolutions were essentially driven by three factors: convergence of visionary leaders; ideas or principles that guide revolutionary minds; and weapons to fight the establishment.

“The first two factors are possible in today’s Japan, but the third needs to be replaced with communication,” Hori said. “Using the power of communication, you can shape public opinions, and then bring about a revolution through elections” to choose the right politicians who are backed by the opinions thus shaped.

He added that people outside the political arena can reach out to the broader public through the Internet. They can post their messages on social networking services, or in videos on YouTube, powerful tools that can touch off a wave of change.

“That’s the quiet revolution,” he said.

Hori’s particular interest in participating this year’s Davos meeting is what the more than 2,500 key figures from over 140 countries may say about the growing presence of artificial intelligence (AI), which physicist Stephen Hawking and U.S. entrepreneur Elon Musk have warned as threatening the existence of mankind.

“Eventually, we may see artificial intelligence take over management and steer businesses … it may even make political decisions,” Hori said. “It may sound like a sci-fi novel, but who knows, AI may evolve into a presence that controls many networks and gains the ability to break through any cybersecurity measures.”

“It’s a scenario that’s growing in reality,” he added.

Asked what he would suggest the forum can do to take further advantage of the precious opportunity it offers for opinion leaders of the world to interact and exchange views with each other, Hori said he wishes to see it lead to concrete actions.

“You can bring up issues, present your observation or comments (in the forum) and that’s great. But we could try further and come up with solutions, clearly present them and put them into action, especially on issues like unemployment of young people and inequality,” Hori said.

He also pointed out growing diversity in the global community, in religion and gender to ethnicity and nationality, may be making it difficult for discussions to focus on specific areas.

And in today’s diversified world, discussions “tend only to go in politically correct directions,” he said. “Maybe in the future, I have a feeling, there may come a point when we need to have the courage to speak out for what we believe is right, even if it’s politically touchy or unpopular with many people, if we really want to solve problems.”

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