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SNU Simulation Study Predicts the Future Rise of Four Social Classes

Nov 16, 2017

Cover image of the New Yorker illustrates a possible future of AI and human
Cover image of the New Yorker illustrates a possible future of AI and human

On October 25, SNU announced the findings of a simulation study conducted by Professor Ki Yun Yu and his research team of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department. The findings predicted the four classes that will constitute the urban population in the future: ‘platform owners,’ ‘platform stars,’ ‘Artificial Intelligence’ and the ‘precariat.’

The highest of the four classes suggested by the study is that of the ‘platform owners’ and is composed of business owners who have transformed their companies into information management platforms which is what many multinational enterprise owners are currently doing. Next in rank are the ‘platform stars’, the ‘superstar’ class comprised of political elites, entertainment stars, and creative specialists. Following this is the ‘Artificial Intelligence’ class which consists of artificial entities that possess legal rights as persons. Unlike the three other classes, this class does not currently exist in our society but is predicted to emerge in the future. At the bottom of the social hierarchy is the ‘precariat,’ consisting of freelancers who make a living by making use of these platforms. These freelancers of the future are current office workers, shop owners, and workers in technical fields.

According to the research team, “While the current precariat population is small, it is predicted that the majority of citizens will gradually enter this class, […] the probability of this being close to one hundred percent.” It is also predicted that citizens of the future will have to live and work in an environment very different to our own. The value of labor will plummet, causing an economic crisis and the development of urban infrastructure will also cease. In addition, today’s emerging technology of Virtual Reality will be expanded to the concept of a ‘Virtual City,’ causing divisions between the virtual world and the real world to become increasingly blurred. The researchers predict that people experiencing this ‘virtual city’ will remain in this state first for hours, and this will gradually extend to days and months. Software giants such as Facebook and Google are expected to virtualize all current services even going as far as to developing virtual planets.

While these scenarios sound like something from a sci-fi film, the research team referenced thousands of books, papers and statistical reports over the past year and applied heuristic methods in attaining these results. Professor Yun, who directs SNU’s Geographical Information Systems/Location Based Services laboratory stated that “the results of the study are based solely on already existing data” and that while they were “somewhat uncomfortable” they were “highly deserving of reflection.” Published under the title of ‘A Report on the Society of the Future,’ the study will be presented at the Korean Space Information Society (KSIS) conference hosted by the Korea Land and Geospatial Informatics Corporation this year.

Written by Jeeye Hong, SNU English Editor,
Reviewed by Professor Travis Smith, Department of Asian Languages and Civilizations,