Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking used when we created them.” We cannot use siloed paradigms to answer the big questions and address the complex societal challenges posed by Society 5.0. These problems are too “wicked” and interconnected with an array of other social problems, from poverty to crime. Nor can we rely on disciplinary mindsets to harness all of the enormous potential of these advanced technologies for good. For that, we need to not only work across fields of study, but also beyond the academy, tapping into the rich knowledge of industry and the lived experience of the community. In other words, those leading us, solving problems, and reigning in the power of technology to improve communities in Society 5.0 will be transdisciplinarians.
Transdisciplinarity is an approach to knowledge and problem-solving which works across, betwixt, and between disciplines and beyond the borders of the university. By transcending conventional boundaries, involving industry and community stakeholders as equal partners in research, co-generating research questions, and valuing real-world knowledge and experience in addition to more traditionally “scientific” data, transdisciplinarity offers the potential for the emergence of new, creative ideas. Through knowledge integration, it provides opportunities for inventive solutions and transformative innovations.
In the academic world, transdisciplinarity differs from multidisciplinarity and from interdisciplinarity.
You might think of multidisciplinarity as a salad bowl: the ingredients have been added together and mixed in one bowl, but they can all be separated and you can pick out which veggies you like to savor them individually. Multidisciplinary approaches bring together fields to look at a common problem and report their findings to one another, but participants retreat to their disciplinary homes with regards to methodology, values, ontology, and epistemology.
Interdisciplinary can be viewed as a soup: the ingredients are stirred or blended together in ways that can’t (and shouldn’t!) be undone when you enjoy a spoonful. Likewise, with interdisciplinary approaches, scholars often exchange research paradigms to tackle complex problems.
Consider transdisciplinarity to be a big, frosted cake. By not only mixing ingredients but baking them, a chemical reaction totally transforms the components into something fluffy and moist. something new and unexpected emerges. The ingredients break down and, in reaction to each other and to the situation, become something unlike what they were before, something really delightful. Transdisciplinary approaches are similarly transformational as the barriers between disciplines and between academy and society are dissolved and paradigms (including philosophical assumptions, methods, values, etc.) integrated to address complexity.
Society 5.0: Technology, Innovation, Equity, and the Future of Humanity Certificate
Note: This certificate starting in Fall 2022.
Through this certificate, students will be challenged to think deeply about Society 5.0, a society in which advances in technology will push the limits of our understanding of human experience, reality, intelligence, and consciousness, while confronting the future of work, travel, relationships, governmental systems, legal applications, health care, education, access, equity, and life in general. It is designed to confront big questions concerning human-machine interfaces, knowledge formation, privacy, security, and what constitutes life and the living. It prepares students to conceive and confront potential futures by learning to think in innovative, transdisciplinary ways while working across and between disciplines to better understand problems while designing practical solutions for guiding and shaping innovations in technology for and in the public interest.
Society 5.0 Courses
- UST 686: Smart and Sensible Global Cities (3 credits)
- UST 802: Logic of Inquiry (4 credits; recommended for doctoral students) OR UST 688: Transdisciplinary Perspectives (1 credit; recommended for masters or non-degree seeking students)
- PHL 600: Humanity and Emerging Technologies (3 credits)
- ESC 505: Disability, Empathy, and Technology (3 credits)