On April 24, a participatory foresight workshop titled “2034 Korea’s Futures,” hosted by the Science and Technology Policy Institute (STEPI), was held at Daejeon Citizens’ University. The KAIST Herald met with the professor in-charge, Professor Seong Won Park of KAIST Graduate Program for Future Strategy and STEPI.
Could you briefly introduce yourself and the workshop?
My name is Seong Won Park, a member of the vice research committee at the Center for Strategic Foresight at STEPI. The workshops I have been running are a part of a project evaluating Korean peoples’ perceptions of and responses to the future. This study is under the project of strategic foresight based on science and technology for national development.
How long have the workshops been run, and what are their objectives?
The workshop held in Daejeon was a part of a series of workshops targeted at people between the ages of 20 and 34. This year’s sessions held at different cities involved 202 individuals in total. The purpose of these discussion workshops was to involve citizens in the process of forecasting. We aim to analyze the discrepancies between what people expect and hope will happen in 20 years’ time. Also, as the participants learn to forecast - with the help of professionals - the various social conflicts and opportunities that may arise, they themselves will be prepared for what is to come in the future and will be able to adapt well.
How were the workshops conducted?
Four future “counterplans” - each suggesting an alternative future - were given to the participants. With the help of a professional, who taught them the steps involved in conducting strategic foresight, the participants were told discuss and reach a conclusion on which scenario is most likely to happen in 20 years and, regardless of its practicality, which scenario they hope happens in 20 years.
Why do you think the citizens’ awareness of the future is important?
One lives the way one wants to in order to achieve goals in the future. Being aware of what is plausible in the future can provide one a sense of direction. Finding out the general public’s idea of a desirable future is useful in changing the society for the better. An exemplary society is one that strikes a balance between the forecasted and the desired futures. Anticipated scenarios urge one to change one’s actions in time. Desired futures have the power to “pull” the society from above; it can lead people to act in a way that can put the society closer to what they think is ideal. If the anticipated vision is lacking, society will be pursuing only the ideal; if the latter is lacking, society will be lacking the direction that leads to desirable results, only chased by the push factors that force it to change. With an appropriate balance, the society will take a step forward towards progress in the future.
Now that the series of workshops is over, could you share with us some interesting results you have observed?
We expected to see a difference among the responses in the five different cities, but surprisingly there were none. Citizens came to the conclusion of a continued economic growth in the forecasted future and societal collapse or reconstruction - a new beginning - in the desired future. The former involved discussions on how economic growth of the country will lead to the nation’s best being world’s best. In due course, various gaps, polarizations, and discriminations in the society will increase, and wealth will follow effort. The latter involved repulsion to the current “growthism,” in which growth must be achieved at al costs. Societal collapse does not mean failure, but the start of a new societal system - a reset - that can lead to a new way of achieving economic growth, such as de-growth or spiritual growth. There is a huge gap between the forecasted and the desired futures, and in fact they oppose each other. This is worrying, as it implies that young generations think that the future is predetermined for them and that they will be unable to bring about significant changes. This may lead them to become onlookers rather than active participants in shaping the next 20 years.
Would you give a word of advice to the young generations as a professional studying this area?
I would like to remind them that the future is open. It is important to find your own image of the future and to associate yourself with influential people to become an influential leader. I hope you will become citizens who can suggest and implement effective alternative plans for the society in times to come.
Copyright © The KAIST Herald, Unauthorized reproduction, redistribution prohibited