National / Science & Health

From artificial hibernation tech to avatars, Japanese panel drafts 'moonshot' research goals for state sponsorship


A government advisory panel has drawn up 25 ambitious research objectives, including the fusing of machines and organisms and the establishment of artificial hibernation technology, as the government plans to sponsor research projects to realize such “moonshot” goals.

The advisory panel, at its meeting on Wednesday, adopted the 25 candidate goals under three research themes: overcoming the aging society and low birthrate, restoring Earth’s environment while cultivating urban civilization, and pioneering new frontiers in science and technology.

The panel, chaired by Yoshimitsu Kobayashi, former chairman of the Japan Association of Corporate Executives (Keizai Doyukai), came up with the draft list of moonshot goals, following suggestions from the general public, as well as businesses and government agencies.

The government will narrow down the candidate list to around five to 10 goals while consulting with related experts. It will approve the final list at a meeting of the Council for Science, Technology and Innovation, chaired by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, as early as late this year.

The government will then solicit research proposals from early next year, with plans to provide some ¥100 billion to sponsor promising ones for five years.

Below are some of the 25 candidate research goals:

Establishing cyborg technology to combine machines with living tissues by 2050, which is expected to help overcome age-linked deterioration of vision and hearing, as well as cognitive and physical capacities.

Making most human behavior and experiences possible via avatars by 2040. For instance, people would be able to “travel” overseas while staying at home, and the physically disabled could participate in society through avatars.

Enabling access to advanced medical services anywhere in the world and at any time needed, by 2040.

Automating all jobs in the agriculture, forestry and fisheries industries by 2040, through the full-fledged introduction of artificial intelligence and robots.

Eliminating plastic waste from the Earth by 2050, including through the development of alternative materials.

Creating an autonomous system to make scientific discoveries at a Nobel Prize level by 2050. With the system, AI would formulate hypotheses from enormous amounts of existing experimental data, and robots would conduct experiments to prove them.

Achieving artificial hibernation technology by 2050, to help extend healthy human life spans.