The 2033 Futures of KAIST on the perspective of socio-techno design

in kaist •  last year  (edited)

This is what I wote for the term paper of 2013 Spring semester _"Introduction to Futures Studies" by professor Jim Dator.

The 2033 Futures of KAIST on the perspective of socio-techno design
Boyoung Kang (KAIST Graduate school of Futures Strategies)

My X is KAIST and time-horizon is 20 years. I am eager to envision the futures of the time when I perhaps start my new job, an artist and house concert musician, totally different discipline from the futures scientist, the job which I will have when I retire. Socio-techno design has a good advantage in designing the knowledge management system such as university. Therefore I adopt Enid Mumford’s modeling. Another advantage of it is that it comprehensively explains well the products of the matrix of the driving forces of social changes from the history to the future. Although the definition of satisfaction is diverse and it is difficult to derive the unanimous indicator of the evaluation, my preferred future will hardly envisioned unless the ideas and happiness of the individuals which constitute the organization are considered. The important thing is, here, I didn’t jump directly into the preferred future; I did it after investigating four alternative futures could and or/should appear in the future according to the different combinations of the major driving forces and their assumptions. To sum up, this article shows and explains my envisioned preferred future of KAIST based on the social changes theories from the history to the present condition of KAIST and its environment and further theoretical modeling of the institution and the human-centered considerations into the future.
Introduction; How to consider and derive the driving forces for KAIST

Among the many macro and micro driving forces for KAIST’s development, I didn’t just look back into the history of KAIST to find the appropriate ones. According to Professor Jim Dator’s law, futurist should not predict or project the future based on the past trend, but should create the desirable normative futures. Also, my previous knowledge about the knowledge management system modeling and the socio-techno design by Enid Mumford gave me the direction that KAIST, a knowledge institution should create the value through the combination of relationship, knowledge, and process. Then I started to look at the history and ‘social psychology’ was conjured up to me. Since the relationship between people and the social psychology is embedded and invisible in society, it can be difficult to measure, but I tried to find some indicators of them. Not to mention of the socio-techno design of knowledge management, improvement of knowledge and process through the technology development is the most valuable asset in KAIST and I started to look at the history of KAIST.

The history of KAIST and social change theories

Government: University KAIST was established in 1971 at the turmoil period of Korea government’s economic development 5-year plan. It was the nation’s first graduate school specializing in science and engineering education and research. Actually the Korean government has been the driving forces for the entire country’s historical development since the Korean War with its strong political leadership and played the exclusive role in the education including KAIST as the means of transforming Korea from underdeveloped agrarian society into an emerging economy equipped with technological and industrial competitiveness.

Strong government is effective to build up the nation if it is in the early stage of development and/ or post-war economic expansion according to Keynesian economists’ mixed economy theory arguing that the macro-economy leads to the efficient outcomes with a role for government intervention. KAIST as a national state-owned university has driven by the support; a significant amount of research and development (R&D) comes from the government. However, will it be a still major driving force in the future? Seoul National University might be a case to consider that matter. I’ll resume on this topic after the discussion of the investigation of present condition of KAIST.
Technology: The school’s founding was also a catalyst for Korea’s rapid growth from a producer of light industry goods to a world leader in high-technology industries vice-versa. Therefore society as the organic system, all driving forces are inter related and correlated each other though, technology can be singled out as the second reciprocal driving force of KAIST; here reciprocal means that KAIST develops technology thereby they promotes KAIST. How Kaist has been played the leadership as the researched-centered university through the technology until the new millennium year 2000 is well displayed in the figure.

<Universities’ Patents Application>
Rank Applicant Number of patent Applications(% ) Average annual growth rate(%)
(1982~1990) (1991~1996) (1997~1999)
1 KAIST 1.062 (58.4%) 4.64 22.75 33.60
2 POSTECH 261 (14.3%) 80.86 24.17
3 GIST 91 (5.0%) 242.00
4 SNU 76 (4.2%) 43.10 38.67
5 INHA UNIV 53 (2.9%) 128.94
Total 1.820 (100%) 5.74 33.42 50.43
According to William F. Ogburn’s technology determinism theory, technology is the primary engine of progress and drives the development of its social structure and cultural values. Since culture takes time to catch up with technological innovations, social problems and conflicts are occurred due to the culture lag. I believe it also happend in KAIST although it is hard to measure.
Number of patents is an excellent indicator of technological development and also a good barometer of economic and social value creations. As a research-centered university, KAIST seems to be continuously and the most driven by technology in the future. We’ll look at it with the culture and social psychology changes.
Social psychology

Here is my favorite picture showing the human kinds’ evolutionary image of social change and its driving forces-technology, demographic changes, and the social psychology. When you pay attention to the main character in the picture, through the development from the industrial age (1960s-90s) to the informational age (2000s-2005s), and current creative economy(2005-present),
the human’s image mainly due to the job has been changed. By and large, it also applies to the images of Kaistians as industrial workers who were born in 1971. Industrial workers who worked in heavy metal industry had the loyalty to the big organization, which were usually heavy machine and facility based. Kaistians were R&D intelligent workers and engineers but they were sponsored by government and have the strong ‘belongings’ to the organization, which, I believe, are embedded in the school through the professors ex) Professor Lim Chun Taek who were graduated from KAIST. Diligence was the best virtue in society. Informational age workers had the value of the each individual’s competence. The creative economy worker at rightmost is a doctor and artist. What does he or she value the most? What about the Kaistians? According to human-becoming theory by the Rosemary Parse, human is a ‘human-becoming’ since the person is open and continuously interacting with universe. Age-cohort theory by Strauss and Howe -people in a particular age group tend to share a distinct set of beliefs, attitudes, values and behaviors- might be useful to forecast what present and future generations values the most. Also, the important semi-factor of social psychology is the communication. Korea had the collectivism and high-context communication culture for the significant period of time. Now Korea moves to individualism society but still closer to collectivism in comparison with America and Western countries. Daniel Pink said in his book, [ A whole new mind] we are facing the conceptual stage. According to Wikipedia, High-concept is a term used to refer to an artistic work that can be easily pitched with a succinctly stated premise.
It can also be defined as the competency to generate a new idea by combining seemingly unrelated ideas or scanning and grasping the trend and opportunities.. Pink explains the difference between people using the right and left hemispheres of their brain. The right side used to be irrelevant when it came to mass production, but now that people are doing knowledge work, they use their "R-directed thinking" because its more useful for conceptual thinking. I, personally think myself “R-directed” can be a good high-concept person and futurist. ☺.
In my opinion, the meaning of high-concept can be extended to the terminology, high-context which the anthropologist Edward T. Hall first articulated in his 1976 book, [Beyond Culture]. It refers to a culture's tendency to use high context messages over low context messages in routine communication. People rely on more than the literal written or verbal words in order to convey the message using the relationships, subtext, symbolism, connotation, facial expressions which are part of the message.
Therefore I put the balloon saying the very important message “Do what I mean, not what I say”. We are moving toward high concept, high context society and that explains why and how technology should be evolved. The meaning of that the computer resembles the human brain is that it resembles human’s high-concept thinking and high-context language. As far as Kaistians’ psychology is concerned, I have much more things to discuss about the present and future than the past regarding these issues I’ve introduced here. So, I’ll resume the discussion later.


First Kaistians studied together with a small school body of 106 graduate students in 1973. At that time Korean government’s only 2-children per family campaign had been promoted and about only 20% of high school graduates went to college. It is very contrastive with present in that now we are worried about the low-birth rate and approximately 80% go to college. Therefore they were a few good men- in fact all males but don’t have remarkable elite culture in comparison with students in Seoul National University, and too small to have enough visible power to influence as a group in the society, but strong loyalty to the government and country as an individual beneficiary from the government. To discuss the demography, we hardly ignore the overlap with the social psychology since there is a tendency and common psychology from the generations to generations with given the historical context. I’ll resume this discussion with comparative statistics in the next section.

Present condition of KAIST

As I developed the history of KAIST based upon the four driving forces earlier, here is the snapshot of KAIST explained also by the driving forces except the government. The rationale behind I exclude the government here is that the government is actually external environment of X and out of locus of control. Furthermore we live in the world which is getting flatter as Thomas Friedman put it in his book, [the world is flat] and the government is getting smaller according to James M. Buchanan, economic scholar and Nobel Laureate. Korea’s top prestigious state-owned Seoul National University(SNU) was just incorporated as a virtual private company in an effort to improve efficiency and their global competitiveness in 2012. Under the initiative, SNU will be turned into an independent entity that has its own decision-making system.
.In addition, my preferred KAIST is also that it is not much driven by government itself. Hence here is the illustration of present KAIST. In comparison with MIT which has been the benchmark for KAIST, the demographic indicators are also shown in the picture.

Since KAIST is the research centered university, it has more graduate students than undergraduate students with the ratio of 1.5:1. About 60% of admitted undergraduate students are the graduates of science magnet high schools in Korea, but recent years showed the decrease both in the quality and in quantity of students due to the decrease of the number of the total college applicants. I’ll explain in the section of environment of KAIST. I showed the historical patent number for KAIST in comparison with other technology-competitive university earlier and here I load the relatively recent comparative number of patents among the domestic university.
In terms of globalization, the ratio of international students can be used to measure.
As you see in the above pie graph, KAIST has a few international students who are source of the diversity and transferring different knowledge and culture. International students ratio might be used as a barometer of globalization and for that matter, not only KAIST and any other universities in Korea lag behind the overseas competitive universities

Professor-student ratio of KAIST(9:1) is much lower than that of MIT(6:1). Either recruiting fewer students or more professors can be solution to lower the ratio, but expansion of quality and quantity of students and professors is desirable. The problem is KAIST saw the decrease in the number of highly qualified applicants in recent years and recruiting the highly competitive professors seems take time.
79% of students stay in dormitory at KAIST. If it has, KAIST has a good place to cultivate the core value. However, unfortunately, I and other students, even faculty members regret that we don’t have the core value.

QS and JoongAng Dailiy newpaper’s college ranking reports says KAIST is very competitive in global and domestic. The evaluation standards are research papers, patents, and reputation, etc. However, Korea’s NCSI(National Customer Satisfaction Index )says Kaistians(especially students) are gloomy. This research was done in 2011 when 4 students committed suicide due to allegedly the pessimism about their academic records and financial aids (KAIST allow 100% scholarship for students on the condition of satisfaction of minimum academic record required). Considering relatively small size of KAIST, loss of 4 young intelligent students’ lives were too tragic. However, as I will state in the present condition of environment, this tragedy might be affected by overall Korean psychology and my doubt rises that there is something else of the indirect cause, by and large, I guess the KAIST campus life including the life in dining facility and dormitory. More importantly the relationship among students and relationship between professor and student. Regarding this issue, I interviewed with a KAIST professor and doctor, Jung Yong in Bio-brain engineering dept, who has counseled many students as a doctor several days ago. He mentioned that students here tend to be less social-oriented and don’t have much appreciation for the benefits and cares from the schools and professors. OMG!!! I think this is very critical point since the value, so-called, happiness of KAIST in the socio-techno design model in my introduction not only comes from the process and technology, but also from the relationship. Here I put aside for a moment. I’ll bring out again in the emerging issue section.
Present condition of environment

According to the graph above, 80% of Koreans go to college, but the college entrance rate is going down. Doctoral graduates in science and technology per 1,000 labor forces are only 35 which is rank in low group of OECD countries. The worst is suicide rate ( I couldn’t mention exactly in the above graph), unparalleled those of other countries. The saddest thing about the figures is that Korea’s adolescent age(13-18) students suicide rate is relatively much higher than those of other countries. Any other youth educational institutions should be affected by the national psychology, and KAIST should more in a sense that more competition, more pressures.
There is a bright side of Korea’s knowledge indicator. Recent years saw the rise of the level of Korea’s research and development. As you can see the next chart, Korea ranked 4th in patent applications.
As far as technology, the number of patent application is the good indicator of the technology development and it is also strong barometer of the national income as it is shown in the charts below. At 70 percent, offices of high-income economies saw the largest proportions of global patent filing activity and top 4 countries including Korea account for approximate 80% of total patent applications.
(Source: WIPO, World Intellectual Property Organization)
Dominant Trend Analysis

The suitable variables for the trend analysis, I came up with the number of students who go to colleges and number of colleges, and patents.
Up to 2020, the number is not actually estimates, although I put (E) standing for estimates, since we already know the number of elementary students are decreasing. Current first grader in elementary school goes to the college in 2020. After that I projected the same slope of the line. What about the capacity of university? Under the assumption the school capacity for students does not change, the graph above shows what will happen. College education market in industry’s terminology, it has already become the buyer’s market. What is the definition of growing, collapse, disciplined, transformative? Above graph means real down turn or if any measures haven’t taken, real collapse of future of university if we extend the time horizon to 40-50 years. University without enough students will go bankrupt unless government will support which isn’t seemingly likely. Many think-banks forecast the 20-30% of present universities will disappear in 2020 to 2030. Internet and technology makes the world flatter and the fact that students in a ‘global village’ can learn decent knowledge online for free, as MIT provides now, might trigger the decline of the universities. In that sense, the quantity of university is not likely to grow. However, when we define university as collective intelligence and producer and educator of knowledge and creativity, the absolute number is the meaningless. The ratio between created values from universities and total values is rather suitable parameter. Hence, the qualified excellent schools will rather have more competitive edge in the education.
KAIST as the number one or two as the first-tier university can be forecast in that way. Their rationale to exist is more centered and directed to KAIST as a think tank and cutting-edge of knowledge creator and educator of potential brains. Therefore the futures of overall universities may affect and have the relation with the future of KAIST, but not the same trend indicator.
If only one quantitative barometer of the rise and fall of KAIST should be taken in the trend analysis, the number of patent applications of the past is the right answer and here is the trend analysis.
Emerging issues to consider to better forecast the futures
, Literature reviews of periodicals, books, research papers, and online magazines might be a good source of the emerging issues and here they are.
The book about the university’s future, written by Korea’s famous savants and professors says only when and only if university is open to society and converge with the another discipline, the university will survive and the end of this book is closed with the next bird eye’s view of the campus. During the last couple of months, I took IT courses at KAIST and I learned the ‘placeness’ is not only the important concept in architecture but also really in HCI(Human Computer Interaction) and ubiquitous system design as follows.
In order for the place to be smart and have ‘placeness’, it should reflect both the desire to be continuously associated fellows and the concepts of inhabitants.
Another emerging issue from the KAIST’s social failure and Nobel laureate, the former president(2004-2006), Robert Betts Laughlin. He argued that KAIST had better extended in terms of size and academic breadth and upgrade facilities thereby improving the morale of Kaistians and I’m on his side. Many professors were against him at that time but times have changed.
The last issue, probably sounding ridiculous, is the lack of student-club and night life might be the cause of the unhappiness of Kaistians and this is my hypothesis based on the one very ‘minority’ report, Daily beast. It just ranks the 100 happiest colleges in terms of the overall student’s satisfaction level of campus life and 1)campus dining, 2)campus housing, 3)nightlife, 4)graduate indebtedness (avg.), 5)freshman retention rate, 6)total clubs/organizations, 7)sunny day. Refer to the below records in the seven parameters.
Harvard: B+, A+, A+, $10,813, 97.2%, 400, 58%
Stanford: B+, B, B, $15,724, 98%, 590, 66%
MIT: B, B-, A+, $14,148, 98%, 483, 58%
However here my doubt rose again that student organizations and night life may be the important indicator of the students’ human relationships and happiness since all smart and happy Harvard, Stanford, MIT have abundant students clubs and organizations and night lives. Therefore I spent some time to investigate, although I couldn’t research night lives in detail. To sum up, MIT has 483 clubs including over 200 ones associated with local communities while KAIST has 101 ones which are usually in campus. I put them on Appendix A.
Finally I produce the matrix of four alternatives with all things considered including emerging issues.
My Preferred future

Sujin is very happy to go to school today since today she has a class in Albert lab which named after Dr, Albert Einstein since it was modeled on his brain and co-architected by a futurist, Boyoung Kang, an architect, James Fuller, a bio-brain engineer, Dr, Jung. There she can meet the famous scholars, Jim Dator and Lee Gwang Hyoung with hologram images, watch the relevant part of their lectures on video right on demands. The another good part of this lab is that every seat is connected by the each student’s brain by electrically and chemically to the entire classroom. Of course, every computer and brain reader is embedded. When there comes out a controversial topic, every student can participate just by thinking and by a simple gestures, the embedded BMI(brain-machine-interface) reads the messages and shows all the students’ ideas on the board by statistics using decent graphs and figures. The strong advantage of this lab is the professor can choose either the lecture with texts or the lecture with strong vivid images by switching on/off of the right brain lab operation system button which can visualize the images. When allowed, students can express their emotions about other students’ ideas without saying, ‘like’ or ‘dislike’. When art major students co-experiment with brain engineering students in this lab they can actually see the brain stimulation images; according to the different kinds of musical instruments and melodies, and they can co-design the desirable musical notes and pedagogies.
Every student feels the class is very lively and interactive, and does not isolate anyone even if he or she is shy and does not say any word in class. This lab or/and if extended, entire campus can satisfy the needs of students, who are social animals who want to continuously associate with colleagues, thereby enable the ‘placeness’ of the educational buildings.
Conclusion & proposal

Although my preferred future among the four alternatives is ‘transformative’, since university as an educational institution is not a very progressive social invention and my time scale is relatively short-20 years, the outcome might sound very transformative to you. However I believe it contains the comprehensive and innovative measures considering all the driving forces and my aspirations for KAIST; the more technologically and socially associated, the more efficient, happier and finally the more creative.

Government has been one of the most powerful driving forces for KAIST in the past. However in order for KAIST to blossom and flourish as shown in my preferred open and transformative future, the loosened relationship with government and privatization and autonomy is progressively recommended in the next 10 years.

Buildings: Most building facilities including restroom should be ubiquitously systematized and high-conceptualized. ‘Placeness’ ,‘high-concept’, and ‘high-context’ are three important key words to realize this.
Classes: Current one-way teaching by rote classes should be replaced by interactive on-line multimedia classes and labs utilizing advanced HCI, augmented reality, and robot technology armed with cutting-edge of ICT technology of KAIST. This will also overcome the weakness of the location of Daejeon.
Social Psychology

Campus: Campus town & street should be re-designed and built and KAIST will have the abundant alternatives for social lives and open relationships. This is also very important to attract the prospective bright students.
Clubs: KAIST will have more abundant student-clubs up to 300, in and out of the campus and students will participate in many activities of the local communities and demonstrate leadership in laboratory and society as well.
Classes: Interdisciplinary classes should be required for graduation to promote diversity and creativity. Regarding this practice, Manoa School in Hawaii University and Stanford University’s D-School program are good references for KAIST to benchmark.

Students: KAIST should resource gifted children in earlier stage. It might be an excellent alternative that KAIST will establish the school in Global English Village in Jeju island and resource talented children on the global level. The variation in terms of academic competence and intellectual ability in each discipline should be very narrow through the tightened admission policy.
Professors: KAIST will have more competent international professors and teaching faculties as well, hence research-centered professors should focus on their research.
Academic Disciplines and Programs

While concentrating on and strengthening the ‘engineering’ department for its state-of-the-art technology to be the best in the world , I also recommend to establish the liberal arts and arts department so that KAIST should cultivate more creative culture through the interdisciplinary approach and have their true ‘orgware’ and core values.

I gazed at kindergarden children playing on the grass in the park today and regret my time-horizon was too short. Just a little thought of the future of the children over there when they are as old as I am now made me feel guilty and selfish. After a while, I came up with an idea that doing futures studies and becoming a futurist might be becoming a humanist and cosmopolitan. If it’s not, at least it teaches the way of human-becoming. In that sense I owe a great intellectual debt to Professor Jim Dator; he taught us futures studies of the fundamental principles and philosophies to applications mobilizing abundant examples and metaphors, in a quite short period.

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