A current trend in technological advancement, computerization, data processing, and automation is known as the fourth industrial revolution. Technology is evolving rapidly. New technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), drones, and virtual reality (VR) are coming into our lives and people are fascinated by them. Accordingly, the Sungkyun Times (SKT) interviewed Professor Choi Jae-boong of Mechanical Engineering at Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU), who is regarded as an expert in the fourth industrial revolution through systemic analysis and his insight into humanities and engineering. Also, he has given lectures on the JTBC TV program “Differential Class”, and the Youtube channel “Sebasi (Time to Change the World)”.
Professor Choi as a Scholar
Q1. Please introduce yourself.
I am a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Dean of the Service Design Interdisciplinary Major in the graduate school at SKKU. I was born in Myeongnyundong, where the Humanities and Social Sciences Campus of SKKU is located. Also, I received my bachelor’s and master’s degrees at SKKU. I think I have lived around SKKU for most of my life, except for going abroad and serving in the military.
Q2. What aspects of mechanical engineering are you interested in?
When I was a student, I was interested in various fields like engineering, design, architecture, and software. Among these, I picked mechanical engineering as my major because engineering related to design attracted me the most. Nowadays, interdisciplinary study is a global trend, and mechanical engineering is one of the fields in engineering where interdisciplinary study takes place. For example, when it comes to design, mechanical engineers can easily collaborate with people majoring in design, software, and business.
Q3. Among many fields in mechanical engineering, what is your main research area?
I am mostly working on convergence design, which refers to design where a number of industries work together. In my research field related to design, I work with professors of various fields including psychology, evolution theory, medicine, and design. The key point of my research is to study and plan what kind of products and services would be necessary for the future.
Q4. What kinds of work do you do inside and outside of school?
I analyze the fourth industrial revolution from the view of the human and consumer market as I am interested in consumers. Also, I provide consulting to companies that wonder how people would buy products in the future and government departments that question how the government might prepare for a new system. For example, I help the Ministry of Education (MOE) to figure out what kind of education should be provided to students for the future, and I assist Emart 24 with predicting how convenience stores might change in the future. In addition, I study what services and products would be necessary for the Smart Design & Research Institute (SMARDI) at SKKU, which was established in 2011.
|Inside Smart Design & Research Institute (SMARDI) / momoscout.com|
I also give lectures in schools, companies, and television programs. All of these are based on my thoughts that we should know more about humans in the era of the fourth industrial revolution in order to really understand the revolution. Humans should be at the center of the designs.
|Professor Choi Giving a Lecture in Gyeongi-do’s GSEEK Concert / edaily.co.kr|
The Fourth Industrial Revolution Has Already Begun
Q5. In your opinion, what is the key point of the fourth industrial revolution?
The fourth industrial revolution brings evolutionary changes and development in human life with a convergence of IT technology, just like the first, second, and third industrial revolution did, and the fourth industrial revolution has already begun. I think Phono Sapiens are the main factor in this revolution. “Phono Sapien” is a compound of ‘Phono’ and ‘Sapien’. ‘Phono’ means phones and ‘Sapien’ means intelligence. This neologism signifies the generation that has difficulty in living without smartphones. Millennials who were born after the 1980s are familiar with learning the world via the Internet, smartphones, and technology. They began to change what the previous generation had made. For instance, Uber, Airbnb, Amazon, and Baemin make millennials doubt former taxi, hotel reservation, shopping, and delivery systems. Likewise, the fourth industrial revolution will constantly change lifestyles and smartphone users will become the standard.
|Lifestyle of Phono Sapiens / ecr.co.za|
Q6. What is your prediction for future companies and consumer markets?
95% of people in Korea are using smartphones, and services, like Uber, that only smartphone users can use have become a standard of four billion people around the world. The standard of civilization is changing and will change much more rapidly. Online markets, as well as technology for running a business based on data like the Internet of Things (IoT), robots, and 3D printing will become more developed and widely used. As the way of consuming has changed, the system of the industry should be changed and will change. I also suggest that manufacturing will be revived in the near future. The online market is huge, and it keeps growing. As people like buying offline, however, the offline market will not disappear. Then, the online market will stop growing and online and offline markets will become balanced at last, which will result in less investment in the online market. Consequently, people will focus on manufacturing because the ability to make products quickly at relatively cheaper price is going to be the biggest thing.
Q7. Some people worry that robots might rule the world, and many people might lose their jobs due to the fourth industrial revolution. What is your opinion on this idea?
So far, researchers on AI have not come up with research that supports that they can make AI with its own will. Some are concerned about that, but their thoughts are not based on scientific and technological knowledge. Their ideas might be close to a myth if they excessively feel concerned about something that has few reasons. Also, it is unlikely to happen in the near future. Since the future of AI is not something I can talk about, people should believe what AI researchers say
The Fourth Industrial Revolution and Our Future
Q8. How should Korean society prepare for and adapt to the fourth industrial revolution?
I think the first industrial revolution gave the answer to that question. The Joseon Dynasty carried out a national isolation policy, whereas Japan adopted a new civilization and system, even though they both experienced Western civilization in the 1850s. Therefore, Japan got stronger and ruled Joseon, while Joseon suffered. If we do not adopt a new system from the world with strict regulations, our descendants will suffer in the future. For them, we should prepare for a future where we bring people’s ideas into consensus. For example, in the case of Uber, both taxi drivers and people may accept damage for the future generation. Taxi drivers may stop fighting against the arrival of Uber in Korea to keep their income and taxes may be used to help the welfare and income of taxi drivers.
Q9. How should students prepare for the fourth industrial revolution?
Firstly, students should make business models and challenge themselves. To do so, they should study digital technology, the lifestyle of Phono Sapiens, as well as business models. Students are Phono Sapiens, which will help them build business systems that Phono Sapiens like. Using modern technologies wisely will help students. I recommend meeting and exchanging ideas with people by Social Network Services (SNS) and various communities.
Also, students should develop the ability to think of new ideas, learn, develop themselves, and communicate with many people constantly. Lectures in schools are important, but as knowledge is everywhere in the world, students should take advantage of the technologies to acquire new knowledge and more about the fields they are interested in. Minerva school, where students learn online and design a new application by themselves in companies, and Ecole 42, an innovation school where students work on Information Technology (IT) projects with Internet and tutors’ help instead of attending lectures, are good examples of ways of learning methods.
|Students in Ecole 42/ 42.us.org|
Q10. How a university education should be provided in the fourth industrial revolution?
Universities should provide knowledge and skills that students must know, which will be the basis of one’s story. Students should work on additional parts by searching and studying about their interests, their majors, and the world on their own. Students who do the additional study will know more than students who do not.
Q11. Any last words for Kingos?
Please have a certain sense of purpose. Students should contemplate on a new kind of human, Phono Sapiens, and the future that will be changed by them. I suggest students to plan to experience changes in modern civilization and their interest by organizing trips. For example, Kingos might experience the origins of designs by visiting famous cities or countries for designs if they are interested in design. Also, students should constantly think about their own brand and story. Lastly, I advise Kingos to try to have their own perspective and approach. It was through interdisciplinary study and design of humans that helped me to create my own perspective and approach. To do so, keeping notes on thoughts and experiences is helpful to establish their own brand.
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