Skip to main content

tv   The David Rubenstein Show Peer to Peer Conversations  Bloomberg  March 24, 2017 9:30pm-10:01pm EDT

9:30 pm
xfinity. the future of awesome. ashlee: if you are having tea with a giant hello kitty doll, then you are almost certainly in japan. ♪ ashlee: this is a place that specializes in obsessing over
9:31 pm
things and taking every want and need to their unnatural extreme. if you desire a refreshing drink, there is a vending machine that will evaluate your face and pick the perfect beverage. or, perhaps you prefer to imbibe while in the company of an ornamental owl, or to down a latte with a three-dimensional robot as garnish? that is good robot. the japanese, of course, also fetishize technology like no other culture. japan's once glorious tech shine may have dulled with the decline of sony and other empires, but without question, there is a new
9:32 pm
tech movement on the rise. i am traveling from tokyo to kyoto to meet the japanese inventors bringing this new culture to life. away we go. along the way, i will hang with some robots that can kick my --, and lose myself in this trippy wonderland, all on this episode of "hello world." ♪ ashlee: silicon valley may be home to some of the biggest tech giants in the world, but it is being challenged like never before. crazy tech geniuses have popped up all over the planet, making things that will blow your mind. my name is ashlee vance. i am an author, a journalist, and i am on a quest to find the most innovative tech creations and meet the beautiful freaks
9:33 pm
behind them. >> hello world. [car horns honking] ashlee: where else would i begin my journey, but in tokyo? ♪ millions of people make their way around the city in an orderly fashion, doing the best not to bother anyone. it is that night that tokyo really comes to life. welcome to the robot restaurant. ♪ ashlee: as touristy and insane as all of this is, it actually gets to the heart of japan's relationship with robots.
9:34 pm
the machines here come with stories and personalities. they are good. they are bad. and sometimes, they eat people. but far away from the fire breathing dinosaurs and werewolf guitarists, researchers at a tokyo museum have set up a workshop where they are looking to prove that robots can be imbued with life. >> hello, ashlee. ashlee: eat your red pill and try to keep up. ♪ ashlee: professor takashi ikagami has helped create this thing, which looks like it comes straight from "ex machina's" central casting. through a series of sensors and artificial intelligence
9:35 pm
software, this android looks out into the world and reacts to what it sees. the android is, in effect, evolving based on what its ai software seems to like. takashi: basically, there are two different mechanisms, one is an autonomous rhythm generator coupled with each other. also there are artificial neural networks firing and sending signals to each other. ♪ ashlee: as someone approaches the android, the sensors detect the movement, and then the software kicks in to determine how the robot will move in response. but, for the moment, it has a movement style that could be described as that really drunk guy at the party. ok, so in each one of these sensor boxes right here, there are two cameras, and they are
9:36 pm
measuring -- takashi: measuring the distance, yes. ashlee: so, when i come closer and further away from the machine, it has to react to that. takashi: yeah. ashlee: you will add more and more sensors over time. takashi: yeah, temperature sensors, sound sensors, many other sensors. ashlee: armed with more sensors, the robot can make more judgments about its environment and more nuanced reactions. over time, the movements and gurgles change. the thinking is that the robot will eventually form its own personality, and possibly even language. what is the deal with the noise? is it hungry? [laughter] takashi: this sound is designed by my students. the behavior is modifying those sounds. the sound is changing all the
9:37 pm
time. it is more like a primitive language. that, i think, is the interesting part of it. like our babies, we don't have to tell everything to the baby, but baby can learn unconsciously by interacting with the people and learning from the environment. ♪ takashi: once we have a bunch of lifelike systems around us, maybe our concept what is life will be very much different. and if we want to coexist with robots, then maybe we have to learn different languages and a different way of thinking. ♪ ashlee: so that does not freak you out? you think that -- takashi: i think it is much more ideal to me, compared with this very violent world right now. ♪ ashlee: thank you for letting me see your android. takashi: thank you. ashlee: thank you. [laughter]
9:38 pm
takashi: he said something. [laughter] takashi: i think he said he likes you. [laughter] ♪ ♪ ashlee: up next, i head to kyoto for a lesson in robotics history and to hang out with some other less terrifying robots that you might actually let near your children. ♪
9:39 pm
9:40 pm
♪ ashlee: if you want to learn about robot culture, kyoto is as good of a place to start as any. for hundreds of years, it has been the showcase city for japan's most famous traditions, from geishas to spectacular temples. over in the university district, you can also find some of japan's best technological minds. i have come to doshisha university to dive deep into japan's love affair with robots with a professor and one of japan's most active robot hobbyists.
9:41 pm
>> [speaking japanese] ashlee: hey, hey, wow. yeah, he has good moves. ♪ ashlee: takashi horinouchi embodies a japanese concept known as otaku. it refers to a person who obsesses over something, be it hello kitty, sushi, or robots. for takashi, robotics is more than a hobby. it is his passion. most of his free time goes into assembling these things by hand out of 3-d printed body parts and electronics. do you work on these things almost every day? takashi: yes. about two hours almost every day. [speaking japanese] ashlee: that's cool.
9:42 pm
takashi: yeah. [laughter] ashlee: each one takes months to build, including the software for the choreographed moves. but it is not all for show. these robots must fight to earn their keep. akira would hit other robots, yeah? yeah? [laughter] ashlee: one of takashi's robots recently took first place in a competition, making him king of the otaku. and when you are the king, there are people who want to study you. one of japan's foremost researchers into the relationship between man and bots is hirofumi katsuno, an anthropologist here at doshisha university. hirofumi: i was looking for the passion in people who work on robots. i joined a group and started to create my own robots.
9:43 pm
ashlee: hirofumi felt compelled to ask that seinfeldian question, what is the deal with japan and all those robots? hirofumi: it is related to japan's sort of national quest to establish its own identity after the world war ii. so after the devastation, japan started to rebuild the nation through promoting a peaceful use of science and technology. in the process, i think many anime creators and manga creators started to ponder the kind of ideal relationship between the japanese and technology, such as osamu tezuka, the creator of astro boy. ashlee: hiro is not alone in pointing to the significance of astro boy.
9:44 pm
the manga series started in the 1950's and has a mad scientist type building an android to replace his dead son. the saga goes on to explore what life would be like if humans and robots coexist. and it is that very same idea that one local tech giant has invested millions of dollars to pursue. ♪ ashlee: hitachi produces a shocking amount of stuff, from brain scanners right on up to nuclear reactors. this being japan, it is also in the robot game. i have gone to one of the company's vaunted research labs to see its latest take on the robot that people desire most, an autonomous helper. hitachi calls this creature emiew.
9:45 pm
emiew: [speaking japanese] ashlee: hi, emiew. emiew: please follow me. ashlee: ok. ♪ emiew: i am emiew. i am very happy to meet you. ashlee: emiew was developed as a sort of friendly robot concierge, equipped with ai for navigation and speech recognition. they might provide directions at an airport or do low-level security work, or he might be kicked over by a cynical reporter looking for a good time. that is pretty cool. that resemblance between emiew and my pal hello kitty is on purpose. emiew's designer, atsushi baba, wanted the robot to have the same harmless, non-creepy feel. is it meant to look like a child? atsushi: yes. so that everyone likes it. ashlee: everyone likes a child,
9:46 pm
yeah? [laughter] ashlee: there is an adorable quality to these robots, and they may be helpful one day. for the moment though, rolling around and looking cute is about the extent of what they can do, and they are super expensive to make. do you have a price that you are aiming to get to? atsushi: we would like them to be cheaper than a car. ashlee: be cheaper than a car? ok. what is that, emiew? you want to make up for your failings by showing me an autonomous vehicle? ok. thanks, emiew. here is my ride. this sweet hog with the fliptop door is called ropits. away we go.
9:47 pm
it is sort of like a self-driving car, but it is meant to travel down sidewalks instead of on the road. and this is the vehicle's inventor, ryoko ichinose. ryoko: [speaking japanese] ashlee: japan's aging population has forced the country to try and invent new ways to help seniors make their way around cities. the idea here is that someone can summon the car to their house, then go for a leisurely drive to the store. the open windows and slow speed of ropits means that the driver can even have a chat with a friend, or perhaps an emiew walking nearby.
9:48 pm
it is a beautiful, utopian future hitachi is imagining for us all, full of smart, compassionate robots attending to our every need, but suffice it to say, that future very much remains the future. the wall, the wall, the wall. [laughter] ♪ ashlee: where are we going? where are we going? what is going on, robot? help, emiew. ♪ ashlee: up next, i return to tokyo for a few surprises that, thankfully, have nothing to do with robotics at all. i am glad i did not take acid before we came here. ♪
9:49 pm
9:50 pm
ashlee: japan's creative thinking has stalled in recent years as its tech giants and startups have struggled. ♪ ashlee: to find out why, i joined my friend noriaki okubo back in tokyo for a chat about japan's tech scene over noodles.
9:51 pm
aki is a well-connected tech guru, venture capitalist, and champion noodle slurper. never worked on my slurp technique. after a week in japan, i had so many questions for him. how would you compare the japanese vc scene to say silicon valley? noriaki: traditional vc's are really bad because they don't want to take risks. there have been a lot of new vc's that are doing well, that can take risks, but not the traditional salary man type vc. ♪ ashlee: when noriaki says "salary man," he's talking about that image we have of the conservative, hard-working japanese businessman. this culture rewards conformity and safe business decisions. according to aki, it is a key factor in the fall of japan's tech dominance in favor of the disruptive mentality of silicon
9:52 pm
valley. noriaki: the decisions that come up from that kind of process is always going to be, let's just do something that is ok, and nothing cool. ashlee: yeah, is there a big call to change the way of thinking? noriaki: i mean, i think there is, but it is still the minority. ashlee: yeah. while aki's take on technology here holds true in the big picture, there are plenty of people in companies that see themselves as rebels trying to buck the system. ♪ ashlee: and no one exemplifies this better than toshiyuki inoko and his company teamlab. for inoko, inspiration struck when he was just eight years old. toshiyuki: in my second year of junior high, i usually tell people that an electric wave struck me.
9:53 pm
i'm not sure exactly what it was or even how to describe it, but a strong sense of duty that i needed to do something that had meaning in society suddenly came over me. ashlee: if that red pill is still circulating through your system, then this will feel perfect. let's go see if we can find a fish. it is one of teamlab's world-famous techno-art experiences. they use this projection mapping technology to track the fish, and when they hit somebody's body, you're supposed to turn into a flower. all right, we are supposed to move on. let's go down that hallway. how long does it take to do one of these projects? toshiyuki: forever.
9:54 pm
we take one idea and create, reconsider, then repeat the process. for example, the exhibit you saw, crystal universe, we have been working on for five years. the pool one, we been working on for two to three years. ashlee: teamlab has around 400 employees thinking up new, ever-weirder things and working in their makeshift laboratories. what is this one? toshiyuki: you are making clothes, right? i think it is for a show. it is for a dancer? no, he is making clothes for a mascot. here we are experimenting with a device that allows you to manipulate waves in the water. ashlee: you are going to make patterns in the water and control the patterns. yeah, that's cool. [laughter]
9:55 pm
ashlee: inoko is known throughout japan as a flamboyant character. for him, you either create something new or you grow old and stay quiet. toshiyuki: japanese society has aged too much. it is a society of old people. it is conservative, and it can't seek value in new things. ashlee: so you are trying to change that? toshiyuki: no. ashlee: no? toshiyuki: no, no, no. no, i want to be with people who want to take a step into the new world. people who are creative, who want to change the world. these people i hope to inspire and to have an influence on, or by having them experience our art, i want to shake their values, so rather than taking on people who don't want change, i work to inspire people who want change.
9:56 pm
ashlee: it is inoko and the people wired like him that do seem to be japan's best hope for a major technology resurgence. the well-funded robotics labs and corporate giants do amazing research, but they have struggled to keep pace with places like silicon valley and china when it comes to making products that actually reach consumers. ♪ ashlee: japan remains trapped between two worlds, the old and the new. it is a country that has turned the future into a religion, but that must still deal with an aging population and rigid customs. the way forward for japan, its chance to really make a mark, will almost certainly come from its robots. emiew, for one, is already getting ready to be a guide and chauffeur at the 2020 olympics.
9:57 pm
for now, i say good night to japan. may all our dreams be filled with hello kitty. ♪ ashlee: up next on "hello world," i head to russia to fly drones in siberia, hang with a techno-oligarch, and get beaten with a birch branch. ♪
9:58 pm
9:59 pm
10:00 pm
♪ >> from our studios in new york city, this is "charlie rose." charlie: michael morell is here. he is one of our nation's leading national security professionals. he most recently served as cia deputy director and twice as acting director. i am pleased to have him back at this table. welcome. michael: it is great to have you back. charlie: let me start with this. this is this morning's washington post. house intelligence chair alleges spy agency abuse. wall street journal -- g.o.p. lawmaker sparks new battle over trump spy claimant. g.o.p. leader puts new spin on wiretaps. take me through this. unpack this.