In this section, we look at the different ways Korean writers have been imagining the future of humanity.
We will forever remember March 2016’s “Battle of the Century” between Google’s AlphaGo and grandmaster Lee Sedol as they fought it out for supremacy over the game of Go. It was a competition between human and machine, but at the same time also a foretelling of our future. As the competition began, most people believed in the superiority of the human intellect, or at least wanted to believe in it. But once met with a sobering defeat of 4:1, we were swept up in all kinds of thoughts and anxieties. One could say we started to genuinely see the need to think more deeply and widely about the future of humanity, and to seek new ways of coping with this brave new world.
But it’s hardly necessary to look into the future to realize how humanoid or transhuman machines might affect our lives, since they are already among us, having become an indispensable part of everyday life. Artificial intelligence sets the temperature in our rooms, drives our cars, and dispatches news flashes about earthquakes or posts articles about baseball. There are even machines seeking to usurp us in that final frontier of humanness: our creativity. We already live in an age where robots make music, draw pictures, and write poetry and novels. Some people go to great lengths to denigrate these amazing efforts, saying such work is only, in the end, the result of data originating from humans, and that language created through such recombined data can never truly move the hearts of readers.
But Lee Sedol’s loss to AlphaGo shocked us out of our complacency about the possibilities of technology. So we can’t help but ask ourselves: Are we going to be governed by this scientific civilization and the social systems of our own making, or can we utilize these tools towards building a more meaningful life?