The 2016 Kyoto Prize
11 /11 Fri
Place：Kyoto International Conference Center
The 2016 Kyoto Prize Kyoto Prize Laureates
Think like an Amateur, Do as an Expert: Fun Research in Computer Vision and Robotics
Abstract of the lecture
Most researchers, when asked their fondest desire, respond that they want to do good research. If further queried as to what constitutes “good research,” they often find it difficult to give a clear answer. For myself, I believe that good research derives from solving real-world problems, thus delivering useful results to society, whereby researchers themselves enjoy doing so. Such research has its own story to tell, as well as power to persuade other people. “Think like an amateur, do as an expert” is my research motto: When conceptualizing a problem and its possible solution, think simply and openly, as a novice in that field, without preconceived notions. When implementing a solution, on the other hand, do so thoroughly, meticulously, and with expert skill. As a roboticist, I have been extremely fortunate to participate in developing a wide range of computer-vision systems and autonomous robots, including human-face recognition, autonomously-driven cars, computer-assisted surgical robots, robot helicopters, biological live cell tracking through a microscope, and EyeVision for Super Bowl broadcast. In these projects, I met and worked with many people from diverse backgrounds, and also encountered many challenges. While reviewing the technical content of these projects, I will also try to sprinkle anecdotal experiences that highlight the appealing and enjoyable aspects of a researcher’s life—those that occur accidentally or inevitably as my “Think like an amateur, do as an expert” maxim interacts with problems and people.
Serendipities of Acquired Immunity
Abstract of the lecture
In this lecture, I want to talk about several fortuitous developments that I have experienced during my time as a researcher. In the 1950s, Frank M. Burnet published the clonal selection theory, which motivated numerous researchers to explore how the cells of the immune system work to produce enormous antibody diversity. I came across this topic in the early 1970s, during my stay in the United States, where, as luck would have it, a new technology in molecular biology had just begun to be developed. After returning to the University of Tokyo in 1974, our group accidentally identified a deletion of antibody genes and proposed a hypothesis on the genetic principle for class switch recombination. We succeeded in proving that hypothesis on a molecular level after moving to Osaka University. Then, in 2000, whilst working at Kyoto University, we found that a single gene encoding activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) has a dual role in class switch recombination and somatic mutation, two separate, mysterious phenomena. In 1992, we started working on PD-1 and found that this acts as a brake in the immune system. Then, in 2002, we discovered that PD-1 inhibition could be effective in treating cancer in animal models. After 22 years of study, this idea has borne fruit in a new, breakthrough immunotherapy that is being hailed as a ‘penicillin moment’ in cancer treatment. I believe that, just as a number of antibiotics developed in the wake of the discovery of penicillin now protect humans against threats of infectious diseases, this discovery will play a leading role in advancement of cancer immunotherapy so that in the future the fear of dying from cancer will cease to exist. Through evolution, vertebrate animals have developed immunity against infection by microorganisms. In the process, they incidentally acquired a sophisticated system for diversifying genomic information by combining gene fragments. It was doubly fortunate that the success in cancer treatment via PD-1 inhibition brought the realization that immunity, a “weapon” against infectious diseases, could also serve as a “shield” against cancer. It has been said that, whereas humankind’s greatest enemies in the 20th century were infectious diseases, cancer is the major foe in the 21st century. It is a pleasant surprise to discover that the acquired immunity system holds the keys to overcoming both of these difficult medical challenges.
Philosophy in the Service of Humanity
Abstract of the lecture
Near the start of Plato’s famous work Republic, as the characters quarrel about how to define justice, Socrates reminds them: “Remember that it is no chance matter we are discussing, but how one should live.” And political philosophy, as practiced in the Western tradition and also in the non-Western traditions of which I know all too little, has always been a practical discipline, seeing to construct a theoretical blueprint for just and decent lives in a world full of division, competition, and uncontrolled catastrophes. In this lecture I hope to provide some reasons for thinking that philosophy continues to play an important role as we work together for a better world, and to identify some criteria for valuable philosophical work on urgent human issues. First, why do we need philosophy? In this part of the lecture I shall focus on the contributions that philosophical work has made to development economics during the past thirty years, as an example of the type of insight that philosophy can provide. Second, what type of philosophy? Here I shall insist on several criteria. To help the progress of humanity, philosophy must be: 1. Rigorous in argument and transparent in presentation, open to all to criticize. 2. Respectful of the contribution of other disciplines, particularly history and economics. 3. Respectful of the fact that most of the world’s people live by the guidance of religious belief, and that this is an element of human life that should not be viewed with contempt, as is so often the case in philosophies of the past. 4. Curious about and respectful of the world’s many philosophical traditions and interested in establishing a cross-cultural philosophical dialogue. 5. Concerned with real human life in all its messiness and complexity, including the complexity of human psychology, which provide both resources in and obstacles to our pursuit of justice.