Table Speech

The World of Internet

January 27, 2016

Mr. Eijiro Katsu
President COO
Internet Initiative Japan Inc.

According to a recent survey, the average lifespan of large American companies has shortened from 60 years in the 1920s to 15 years in 2012, mainly due to revolutionary changes in the industrial and economic structures. As we live through a turbulent period, our society, economy and daily life will undergo dramatic changes in the coming decade or two.

History shows that it takes about 70 to 100 years for a major technological innovation to penetrate into society and trigger major changes. For example, Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1445 which led the way to mass-production of the Bible in German by Martin Luther in 1517. The steam engine invented by James Watt in 1769 was another example, showing the development of ships and railways took about 70 years.

Computers were developed in the 1940s and IBM launched the first commercial computer after the War. The development of the Internet has connected computers equipped with communication software and enabled construction of all kinds of systems. Popularity of smartphones (portable computers) facilitated data acquisition. Coupled with the development of Cloud Computing technologies that enable big data analysis, we can constantly update our knowledge and information. We are entering the era of IoT (Internet of Things) where our lifestyle, mode of production, consumption patterns and recreation keep changing. For example, the emergence of e-commerce has triggered dramatic transformation in retail logistics, distribution and mass-retailers. Big data are utilized to offer items that best respond to consumer needs. Cars and houses will also be equipped with sensors and communication tools connected to the Internet. Autonomous cars or smart homes will bring changes to other sectors, including insurance businesses and nursing care.

As everything gets connected to the Internet, there will be greater threat to security. In fact, FCAUS announced the recall of 1.4 million vehicles last July to prevent hackers from gaining remote control of the engine and other systems. Shortage of IT security professionals poses a serious issue. In Japan, we have 265,000 professionals but 160,000 of them are under-skilled. In addition, we still lack 80,000 personnel. One of the solutions can be the utilization of artificial intelligence to automatically analyze and respond to already-known threats. This way, cybersecurity professionals can focus on more advanced unknown threats and we can provide better protection to the growing number of individuals who become susceptible to cyber-attacks in the IoT era.

Ray Kurzweil wrote The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology ten years ago and gave a futuristic view on what exponential advancement of IT technologies can bring to our life. He claimed that we could create human beings who can live semi-permanently in 30 to 40 years. This might sound unrealistic, yet the advancement of the Internet will surely keep changing our life as well as various issues including the security.

“The Month of Life Insurance” and Japan-U.S. Relationship

January 27, 2016

Mr. Koichiro Watanabe

Many events were held last year to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the end of WWII. I work for Dai-ichi Life Insurance Company which has preserved the room used by General MacArthur of the General Headquarters of the Allied Forces (GHQ) at our Tokyo head office. We held a special public opening of this room and received many visitors.

As you know, scores of rules and norms in Japan, including the taxation system, were influenced by the U.S.A. during the Allied occupation after the War. The life insurance sector was no exception. Originally based on the German model before the War, it came under strong influence of the U.S.A. in the postwar period. One example is “The Month of Life Insurance” set upon the proposal by Mr. Royston, Insurance Commissioner of GHQ, to conduct promotion campaigns for the industry every November. Life insurers were hit hard by the War and made a fresh start based on the Financial Institutions’ Reconstruction and Readjustment Act promulgated in 1947. The Month was designated in November 1947 to mark this restart.

The life insurance industry continued to grow in Japan after the War. Our market accounts for 16% of the world market and is ranked second after America’s 20% share. Our market size is huge and equals to markets of China, South Korea, Taiwan, India and Australia combined

Life insurers in Japan are expanding operations overseas, especially in Asia, to prepare for the advancement of aging with declining birthrate in this country. We strive to complement the social security system of each country, provide funds to local infrastructure and enhance its socio-economic development.

As part of globalization, a number of Japanese life insurers engaged in large-scale M&A of American insurance companies last year. Being the largest market, the U.S.A. is estimated to expand further with population increase. I realize the growing importance to base our business strategy on Japan-U.S.A. relationship as we have come to share the same values in many aspects through the seventy-year postwar period. I have learnt American life insurers do commit themselves to the local community to build strong partnerships. I think it is no coincidence that the Rotary movement that contributes to local communities was born in the U.S.A.

The aforementioned MacArthur Room has a monument of the poem “Youth” written by Samuel Ullman. There were many enthusiastic fans of this poem in the post-war political and business world, including General MacArthur. Citizens and corporations in Japan and the U.S.A. made donations to build the Samuel Ullman Museum in Birmingham, Alabama, which exemplifies the strong relationships between the two countries. The poem starts with “Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind.” Each time I read it, I feel the poem best describes what Rotarians are.