Daniel White

Grant Type

Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship

Institutional Affiliation

Cambridge, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10193

Approve Date

October 7, 2021

Project Title

White, Daniel (Cambridge, U. of) "Technically Well: Contemplative Technologies and the Politics of Human-Centered AI in Japan"

For the past decade government and research organizations in Japan have been investing in Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence to balance the benefits of economic development with the technological costs to wellbeing. Many of these technologies, such as wearable devices or companion robots, are called “human-centered” (ningen chūshin) because they focus specifically on emotion recognition in order to improve human care. However, these technological advances raise questions that trouble users and regulators of emerging AI technologies in Japan and at the same time challenge anthropologists studying human-technology relations. For example, if emerging emotion-focused AI technologies are “human-centered,” how do these technologies register human emotion? How do they define “human” problems and solutions through the emotional data they collect and analyze? And if these technologies primarily record quantitative patterns of affective behavior, how do they affect the quality of human-technology partnerships in Japanese society? This research documents how in response to anxieties elicited by quantitative data and technology-based approaches to social and emotional wellbeing in Japan, surprising new collaborations between AI engineers and Buddhist contemplatives are emerging that endorse human-machine bonding, and that demand incorporating non-Anglophone contributions to the anthropology of technology in order to understand.