Fourth Industrial Revolution

Japan displays technological abilities with an AI welcome for Pope Francis 

Pope Francis gestures as he arrives to hold the Holy Mass at the National Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand, November 21, 2019. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun - RC2PFD9NH0BT

Pope Francis gestures as he arrives to hold the Holy Mass at the National Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand. Japan is the next stop on the tour. Image: REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

Hideto Sakai
Writer, Reuters
Akira Tomoshige
Writer, Reuters
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Technological Transformation

Few aspects of life escape the touch of high tech in cutting-edge Japan, including an official song written to welcome Pope Francis when he visits Japan from Saturday.

Written by Jun Inoue, the song, “Protect all Life - The Signs of the Times”, is based on the theme of the pope’s Japan visit and was partly composed using an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered programme Inoue created that can write a piece of music in a few seconds.

Jun Inoue, a producer who created a theme song for Pope Francis' upcoming visit to Japan, demonstrates his work at his studio in Tokyo.
Image: REUTERS/Hideto Sakai
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Inoue, a producer and composer who has written for top bands such as Arashi, and is Catholic, said he agonised over using the AI programme but finally decided to include it because the history of music and technology were intertwined.

“I thought I should give everything I had to the song, so I decided to put in all the cutting-edge technology I had,” he told Reuters. He shares composing credit with “Amadeus Code AI”.

The song, which was written at the behest of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan, will be played at masses in the city of Nagasaki as well as Tokyo and comes in several versions, including instrumental and karaoke.

Well-wishers wave flags while waiting for the arrival of Pope Francis in Bangkok, Thailand.
Image: REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

There are also dance steps and stylised hand gestures that are the Japanese sign language version of the lyrics, with a teaching video posted on the official website for the pope’s visit. Inoue hopes worshippers at the public masses, to be held at stadiums, will sing and dance along with the song.

Pope Francis waves as he boards the airplane to depart Fiumicino Airport to begin his apostolic visit to Thailand and Japan, in Rome, Italy.
Image: REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

While the footwork is simple, consisting of side-to-side steps in time to the music, the sign language may take a bit more time to master.

“There are a lot of people who live in a world without sound, and I would like them too to understand the meaning of the lyrics and the message,” Inoue said.

Theme songs for papal visits have been composed before. One has been unveiled for Thailand, where Francis will visit before Japan.

His visit from Nov. 23-26, which will also include Hiroshima, is only the second papal visit to Japan and the first since John Paul II 38 years ago.

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Fourth Industrial RevolutionEmerging Technologies
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