Is it time for an AI restoration?

The Japanese were once behind. Now they lead. Africa should pay attention.

01 September 2023

James Francis

In the mid-1800s, Western powers forced the isolated Japan to open its borders to the world. The act was arrogant and selfish, but it did do the island nation a favour. Japan had been falling behind. It still brandished swords, sails and carts while the greater world had begun using rifles, steamships and railways. Opening up forced Japan to face this new reality.

What followed was a complicated reshaping of Japanese society and political systems (called the Bakumatsu). It was soon followed by the Meiji Restoration, the quickest “leapfrog” of a society in the history of humans. In just 30 years, Japan changed from a feudal society to a modern one, and within half a century, it would challenge the hegemony of the world. Japan is back into a modernising revolution, only this time it’s leading from the front. There is a lot of anguish about how artificial intelligence will affect our livelihoods. Well, we’re starting to see some data. The sudden arrival of generative AI is upending the video game industry. No, that’s the wrong phrasing. It’s starting to shake things up like a mojito blender running during an earthquake. Hyperbole? Let’s consider.

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