Our Role in the Paradigm Shift
Nowadays, capitalism is reaching its limit. The whole world is suffering from economic stagnation and youth unemployment rate. Economic dissatisfaction among citizens are triggering moves toward more radical choice such as Brexit and Trump phenomenon. Korea’s situation is not different from the world’s economic status. Korea’s household debt has exceeded 1,200 trillion won in 2016. Moreover, the conglomerates that we take pride in are struggling. Samsung, ranking seventh in the 100 best global brands compiled by Interbrand, confronted a crisis due to the explosion of Galaxy Note 7. Hyundai is having difficulty getting out of the labor union strike problem. Hanjin Shipping, which used to be the biggest marine transport corporation, is on the brink of going bankrupt. The politicians who are accountable for the economic policy seems like they do not have any solution to break through the crisis. Referring to this chain of events, the arrival at capitalism’s limit does not sound ludicrous.
It is uncertain if the next paradigm would help us to resolve the economic recession. However, the fourth industrial revolution is coming up, or it may have already arrived. In this wave, the internet of things and the collaborative commons are the protagonists that will take the lead. As Jeremy Rifkin explains in his book, The Zero Marginal Cost Society, in the next paradigm the search for new technological innovations to advance productivity and lower prices will reduce most commodities’ marginal cost to zero. In fact, it is already happening. A growing number of authors are writing books and making them available at a very low price, or even for free, on the Internetㅡbypassing publishers, editors, distributors, and retailers. So, in the foreseeable future, we will often be exposed to terms such as profit depletion and technological unemployment. Also, the possibility of lack of incentives to innovate and bring new goods and services to the market could exist because the entrepreneurs would have no way to redeem their upfront cost. Yet he suggests that in the hyper-connected society, collaborative commons would give us the key to solving these problems. Individuals will operate economically through a peer to peer network in the collaborative commons, producing and lending commodities with each other. Millions of prosumers, consumers who become involved with producing products, will collaborate freely in the social commons, creating new IT and software, new forms of entertainment, new learning tools, and new green energies. The transformation of economic life from financial capital and the exchange of goods in markets to social capital and the sharing of goods in the collaborative commons is reshaping society’s thinking. So, the core capability in this era would change from entrepreneurship to ‘social entrepreneurship’.
We are standing at the turning point of a new paradigm that we are not that much aware of. If so, what and how should we prepare for this phase? Developing the core capabilities might give us at least some guidelines on what we should do. I believe one of the core capabilities in the next paradigm will be communication skills.
The term hyper-connected society refers to the communication between machine-to-machine, person-to-machine, and person-to-person communication. Among these connections, I believe that person-to-person communication will still and always produce added value in the economic system. In the collaborative commons, an IT service company could be established between network-connected people who are on the opposite sides of the Earth. Between elective course classmates, they could create an innovative product using 3D printers. Communication skills would be the core competence penetrating whole sectors in the next paradigm.
How about the college students? What should we do? Some might say the answer could be intense major study, practical learning through internship or a variety of extra-curricular activities or experiences. However, I emphasize again that even in college we should build up communication skills through numerous interactions. To be specific, we should understand how every individual and subjects are different and learn how to collaborate with each other and become proficient at setting forth our opinions to others. Also, we should accumulate perspectives as much as we can. By studying business management, you can earn the lucrative perspective of a businessman. By being a school reporter, you can earn the systematic perspective of a journalist. By being a tutor in the tutoring program, you can earn the instructive perspective of a teacher. Also, you can double major and converge the new perspective with the perspectives that you had in your primary major.
Not only our determination but also the university’s role is imperative. School should support our interaction attempts. Unlike other universities, our school’s enrollment system blocks other major students from registering for major subjects. Last semester, I wanted to take typography course held by the college of art and design but due to the restriction, I could not even try to learn the discipline. This limitation denies students from being eager to learn other fields and applying their perspective to different subjects. The only choice is to follow the fixed curriculum in student’s own major and take the introductory course in the school of liberal arts. Converging diverse disciplines in one’s own way would be a groundwork in the next paradigm. Students who want to learn other major courses would be happy to take risk of competition with primary major students. There should not be any institutional regulations that stops us from adding up various perspectives. In the process of reducing the limitation, matters of faculty numbers and lecture room capacity might occur. However, compared to the importance of convergence and interaction capabilities, it is an affordable cost.
Other than the institutional aspect, the atmosphere of communication is not developed on campus. We learn ‘Small Talk’, one of the modules in the mandatory English conversation course, and some might think of it as just basic conversation skills. However, small talk is part of the culture in English speaking countries. They talk about the weather with a stranger while they wait for the bus and they discuss a football game with the person sitting next to them at a bar. On the other hand, it is often regarded as weird when we approach a stranger to ask something. Moreover, when we are attending class, we feel awkward whenever we try to ask questions in lecture due to concern about others. The lectures are still one-sided, professor to students, and it is hard to find courses where they approach truth by discussion and debate. Discussions and broadening perspectives through interaction in the lecture and campus life are suppressed. This is a critical issue that we need to solve with each other. We should step up and ask questions, and speak up our opinion regarding the course contents. It is not a shame that we have curiosity because curiosity is what made human great. In addition, saying ‘hi’ to your classmates would be a good start to facilitate interaction. Being an introvert would be a critical weakness in the next paradigm.
In the next paradigm, diversity of opinions and original approaches will be encouraged. I chose communication skills as a core capability that we need to develop. However, every individuals can have their own thoughts on what competence might be the core capability in the next paradigm. So, what capability do you think will be the most needed one?