Lessons from BTS

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Lessons from BTS

Bu Gu-wook
The author is the president of Youngsan University and former chairman of the Korean Council for University Education.


Now is the age of the fourth industrial revolution. Artificial intelligence (AI) has replaced advanced judgment and predictions that only humans were considered capable of. I read the sign that the phenomenon would come faster than expected from the game of go between AlphaGo and a human player.

Lee Se-dol had one victory in five games, but in the games against more advanced software AlphaZero, no Go master could win. How should we prepare for the time when AI is more accurate and specialized than the best human experts in almost every field?

I found the answer from K-pop sensation BTS. Recently, I listened to their music and was captivated by the lyrics and consistent musicality. I was curious about the popularity of BTS that not only music fans but also intellectuals rave over, and I reached one conclusion. In songs like “DNA” and “Fake Love” in “Love Yourself” album, BTS addresses fundamental issues of self-discovery, “Am I looking at my real self?” or “What am I?”

In the age of AI, we need to prepare for the areas beyond the boundary of knowledge-based society made of human knowledge, experience and judgment. The area of wisdom cannot be replaced by AI. It means that humans must go back to the origin and become faithful to human values.

The flow of the global history towards self-discovery and self-realization can be detected through BTS. Billions of people around the world participate in this philosophical discussion through the songs in the aforementioned albums and follow-up hits about inner self.

Countries are not different. They can prepare for the age of AI when they go back to the beginning. Naturally, countries need to reaffirm their identities and begin the process of finding original values and faces. In the age of AI, when knowledge and arguments can expand infinitely, countries and societies not faithful to their identities will practically sail across the vast ocean without direction. They can easily get lost.

Identity of a country or a society is contained in the constitution. A constitution is a blueprint for a nation. The Constitution of the Republic of Korea proposes safety, freedom and happiness of the people as the goals of the state. As a way to pursue the goals, “basic order of liberal democracy” was selected in the preface, and separation of three powers and constitutionalism were defined.

Naturally, all legislation needs to pursue the goals defined in the Constitution. Policies and legislation rushed to resolve imminent and specific problems need to be checked whether they are not against the goal or principle of the state. In the power dynamics with neighbors, guarantee of national security requires economic support through economic development. In the process, it cannot go against the division of power and constitutionalism.

The principle has to be respected in any case, as it comes from long historic experience of the humanity that it is hard to find a leader of perfect character and career. While economic development through free economic activities are guaranteed, reasonable taxation policy should be established through national consensus.

In the age of AI, major changes are expected to happen in the world. Jobs will decrease and wealth disparity will intensify. But depending on the level and direction of preparation for the changes, Korea can have another opportunity. The preparation should begin from acknowledging and refurbishing the basic system of the state and society that can uphold Korea’s constitutional values.

As humans went back to the essence in the transitional periods in history, state and society should be faithful to the basics.

Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.
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