THEME OF 2017

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Inflection Point: Towards New Prosperity

The history of mankind has met several inflection points. The first was when humans, unlike animals, went through Cognitive Revolution that developed human ability to abstract objects and understand them.

The Agricultural Revolution, which has transformed people’s way of living from hunting and gathering to planting seeds and growing crops was the next important inflection point that changed human history. The following inflection point was the First Industrial Revolution of the 18th century which has fueled a rapid increase in productivity and the establishment of market-based capitalistic politics, economy and social order. Thanks to the First Industrial Revolution, people were able to enjoy unparalleled affluence, but on the downside, both individuals and countries had to pay the cost of wealth polarization and rising international conflicts. Every time the inflection point was met, people’s quality of life greatly improved to a whole new level but it clearly divided the winners and losers. Countries and individuals that understood and prepared well for the new era have survived and succeeded, while those who failed to do so have taken the path of degeneration.

In 2017, we face another inflection point. The so called Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), driven by the technological innovation and advancement of the Artificial Intelligence (AI) is bringing about a very destructive change to the whole world. The human history will definitely be distinguished before and after the 4IR, as this revolution becomes the new inflection point.

The advent of AI, the destructor of the existing technology, gives various benefits to humans but it is a double-edged sword which can break down the existing order if not used properly. The changes that the 4IR would bring to various fields such as politics, economy and society are beyond imagination. In the economic sector, large-scale unemployment is very likely to occur as a result of AI replacing human labor. Such unemployment can lead to political and social unrest. Thus, if there’s no preceding consideration for humans, no matter how well you develop new technologies, they can be more of a disaster than benefit to mankind.

Important moments are approaching us every minute, but our response remains to be disappointing. The US-led trade protectionism, which only focuses on pursuing its own national interest, is quickly expanding to other parts of the world. Moreover, indiscriminant terrorism from minority groups is striking fear and horror into people’s hearts and minds. The situation surrounding the Korean peninsula is no different. In this very crucial period, North Korea is escalating tensions by constantly threatening the world with its missiles and nuclear tests. Also, even though 4IR has become one of the most popular keywords of today’s world, not many individuals, companies and governments are properly preparing to meet the challenges it poses.

The world is changing very rapidly, making it difficult to predict what’s to come. Now we are standing on the edge of a cliff. With just one wrong step, anyone can fall endlessly. Therefore, without proper response to change, anyone can end up walking down the inescapable path of the vanquished for a very long time. The 18th World Knowledge Forum is organized to seek ways to respond more wisely to the challenges we face at the inflection point. We hope many people join in this meaningful event where the best experts from diverse fields including politics, economics, science and technologies gather to discuss about the new world.