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Japan has no fear of AI — it could boost growth despite population decline, Abe says


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Governments across the world may be fretting over the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation on employment, but Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Sunday his government does not fear the technology.

Japan is struggling with a declining and aging population, and sluggish growth. Abe said AI could actually help the country to grow.

"Machines equipped with AI, or machines that are essentially robots no longer perform only narrow … functions … the machines of tomorrow will be tasked with solving … (a) multitude of challenges," Abe told an audience at the CeBIT technology trade show in Hannover, Germany, on Sunday.

"Japan has no fear of AI. Machines will snatch away jobs? Such worries are not known to Japan. Japan aims to be the very first to prove that growth is possible through innovation, even when a population declines," the prime minister said. Japan has taken a leading role in the development of robotics, with some of its biggest companies like SoftBank releasing products.

Abe used his speech to tout the benefits of free trade and called for "common technology standards" across the world.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also spoke at the event and said that education will play a key role in teaching people the skills needed in the digital future. Merkel said that some of the modern applications of robotics is "inspiring," but many people still don't understand the benefits of such technology and the government needs to push digital skills in education.

"It is our obligation to explain to our citizens that the state is offering them the options of making use of digital potentials that we will empower them to do that," Merkel said. "The task for us is to push digitization and move it forward and to explain to our people what value add is in all of that."