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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on March 14)

All Headlines 06:55 March 14, 2016

Toward a grand paradigm shift

Google DeepMind's AlphaGo showed the amazing power of artificial intelligence to surpass the human brain. That symbolizes a full-fledged advent of AI beyond the realm of go. Lee Se-dol's dramatic victory at the fourth match on Sunday showed the possibility of human supremacy over AI. But our industrial environment cannot avoid the inevitable paradigm shift in the near future.

It is fortunate that such a momentous match took place in Korea. The competition between Lee and AlphaGo sent a wake-up call to Korea's struggling corporate sector, sandwiched between emerging economies armed with increasingly powerful manufacturing strength and high-tech developed economies. Our information technology is lagging behind even China, not to mention the United States, Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom.

AI has been boldly expanding its frontiers, as seen in the application of AI technology to medical, financial, sports and social networking services by Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook and IBM. When applied to self-driving cars, AI may force insurance companies to go bankrupt due to lack of traffic accidents. If linked to drones, AI will dramatically improve our weapons systems.

As AlphaGo demonstrated, AI increasingly penetrates into human domain of intuition and inference thanks to its marvelous ability to integrate human kind's knowledge and wisdom into computers. Early this year, the Davos Forum forecast seven million jobs will vanish in five years. Jerry Kaplan, a renowned American computer scientist, came up with the grim prediction that 90 percent of human jobs -- except funeral directors and party planners -- will be replaced by robots.

But we don't have to be so pessimistic. Just as America could reinforce its economic leverage around the globe through a digital revolution, we can turn to AI to create more jobs and new business opportunities. What worries us is our government's timid reaction to the change. The Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning plans to deploy five officials to a new team aimed at advancing our information and communication technologies. We urge the government to revise the plan and make the team even bigger coupled with a deregulation drive.

The Korean corporate world, too, must change. If AI further expands its territory to driverless cars, robotics and the Internet of Things, it easily can push our manufacturing industry to the sidelines. We desperately need massive investment in the software field.

When AI is applied to our industries, it can fuel competition between humans and machines over jobs. We cannot rule out the possibility of people being ostricized in the diminishing job market. To address such ethical issues, the government must keep a close watch on the development.
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