20,000,000. According to Oxford Economics, that’s the international number of jobs that’ll be replaced by robots and automation by 2030. Within the United States, researchers at MIT found that during the period between 1990 and 2007, one additional robot added to the workplace displaced three human workers. At the forefront of this particular issue lies blue-collar workers; as they often lack education and specialized skills, employers will begin to rely on robots instead of humans. With such statistics and areas of issue, I find it evident that the replacement of blue-collar jobs by automated robots will become the greatest conflict my generation will face in the upcoming years.
While there is bipartisan support in the U.S. government to help worried workers, the problem is the lack of execution in planning. The issue of automation in the workplace first came to light in the 1960s when President Kennedy spoke passionately on this topic at various speeches. He believed that robots were meant to benefit human life-standards, not replace human jobs. However, with the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963, the topic over automation too ceased to exist. The following U.S. Presidents would put little to no focus on the topic over automation. For example, in 2018, then-President Trump passed an executive order changing public employment strategies in hopes of opening more jobs to people replaced by automation. Specifically, it aimed to increase education for jobs directly at risk and made federal jobs more accessible to Americans who have lost their jobs. During the 2020 election campaign, President Biden's platform promised billions of dollars to fund training to re-train workers at risk of replacement. While the new president has had little time to act regarding this issue, given the direction of the bills he’s proposed in his first few months, it’s not clear when President Biden will start approaching this issue. Conclusively, in examining the recent two presidents’ policies towards automation, it is clear that they haven't acted enough to have an impact, a pattern that has appeared in just about every president’s policies on automation in the workplace since President Kennedy in the 1960s.
Moreover, the seriousness of this issue is seen when comparing it to climate change, another pressing issue. Both the United Nations and global governments have swiftly acted in order to relieve the impacts of climate change, whether it be through the signing of agreements such as the 2015 Paris Accords, or creating specialized committees to address this issue (United Nations Environmental Programme). While climate change is another problem that has no long-term solution for, there are entities working to address the issue; automation has no such groups. With nations being complacent about working to solve this matter, it seems likely that by the time serious social phenomenons in the workforce starts to show, our generation will not have any mechanisms in place that could serve as tools in resolving the rise of automation in the workplace. Automation has rarely come up during presidential debates, global summits, and U.N. committee sessions, paving the way for the problem of automation to grow.
Regardless of whether one comes from a blue or red state, this is a pressing issue for both parties, especially since jobs in both liberal and conservative areas in America are being lost to automation. As Generation Z slowly enters the workforce, automation is reaching record-high levels of representation in the labor force. Although reports differ in terms of actual percentages of jobs that’ll likely be lost to automation, there is a consensus that humans will not be able to withstand the competitiveness of robots in the workplace. As stated above, because world governments have been slow to react to the rise of automation, I believe that my generation will have to vigorously compete with robots for basic occupations. Unless the government acts swiftly to find a solution regarding the growth of automation, Generation Z will struggle to keep their jobs from robots and other technologies.
6:00 A.M. I was walking to school half sleep. The terrifying sound of “Bang” from an airplane in the sky wakes me up and brings back memories of my childhood, when I was crying at night waiting for mom. She was a full shift flight attendant, so I was raised at my grandparents' house nearby Incheon International Airport. Every night, the house was filled with three-year-old me’s bawling cry for my mom. To stop this bawling cry, my grandpa took me to the rooftop of an old and run-down house and pointed at every incoming airplane telling me she is returning on that one. He too did not know in which plane my mom was on; however, his white lie was sufficient for me to stop crying and go to bed listening to the bittersweet melody performed by the plane engines. Now, I am still hearing the same melody near John Wayne Airport missing the old man in South Korea.
7:15 A.M. The second class is orchestra and I have to be ready to lead. I always start with a funny joke to break the ice. This is what Mr. Fisher, the conductor of my middle school orchestra, taught me. He was the first teacher who paid attention to me and rooted the confidence in me. His encouragement pushed me through and I, for the first time, wanted to take the lead in the violin part. By the time I graduated, I was a section leader of the violin section. So, I throw a silly joke to orchestra members just like what he did; I feel like there's a pice of me that went missing after he passed away but in his place remains the legacy he left in me: to lead with confidence.
12:15 P.M. Lunch time. I was around with friends. Many friends who can eat with me. There is no longer a boy looking for a friend to eat together for lunch because his English isn’t good enough. Opening a lunch box, I see Kimbab (Korean vegetable roll). My dad used to compare me to rice when I got a bad score at school saying all good rice food requires a certain time to be cooked. Slow food is not popular because people don’t want to wait, but when you get sick or serious about diets, people can see the value of it. I am eating Kimbab and telling myself not to get discouraged with grades in Math class. Also, the key for the best Kimbab is a good combination of all ingredients inside. Not too much, not too less. I am steering my life like a good Kimbab wishing what if Math class would be all about finding the perfect mixing rate of ingredients for Kimbap.
Moments later, in between the blinding spotlights and the dark night sky, I can feel the enthusiasm to which my schoolmates are cheering me on as I am announced the Homecoming King. I remain frozen on stage as the announcer brings me a crown and a sash. As I stand in the middle of the applause, my mind unconsciously starts scrolling to past memories that brought me here on stage.
I feel a sense of uncertainty on what this new title implies for me, bringing me a fair amount of distress and worry. However, with the variety of different thoughts I had onstage, I realize that uncertainty is not something I should continue to fear; rather, something I should take pride in as an indicator that I am constantly challenging my boundaries to experiment and explore new fields.
Oftentimes in the world, we choose to stay silent on international issues for the purpose of staying “united.” However, it usually becomes clear with the passing of time that there are certain the world cannot afford to stay silent on, one being the resurgent xenophobia and racism around the globe, which must be addressed for both political, ethical, and moral purposes.
We live in an age of globalization where we can reach out to someone at the other side of the world at the touch of fingertips; while this ability to quickly transmit information has brought many benefits, it has become evident that such ability can be misused. For example, the widespread distribution of negative stereotypes, such as the racism towards Asians for “bringing the virus,” have proven to be detrimental, denying groups of people security.
In response to such a surge in xenophobia and racism, I believe the U.N. should advocate for more educational seminars and events. For example, despite its significance in this issue, the most recent “World Conferences against Racism” was 10 years ago and we must revive programs such as those. In addition, there should be more resolutions and declarations made by the General Assembly or the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination so that global leaders and citizens have a universal code they can start applying in their respective countries.
Finally, I strongly believe international institutions are a necessary mechanism in this ever-growing age of globalization. The moment we lose an international forum where we can discuss our issues and share our thoughts, we’ll no longer have the power to understand each other anymore. As John F. Kennedy once stated, “If not us, who? If not now, when?” Without such mechanisms, what will solve this issue?
In the summer of 2020, my family fled America’s rising tide of COVID-19 infections to what we thought would be safe harbor in South Korea. Though we were greeted by the security of family and familiarity, the theaters, arcades, and parks I frequented during past visits were closed. Only historical sites, with their imposing architecture and eroded facades, provided enough outdoor space for continued visitation.
The opportunity to visit these museums and exhibits in a historical moment as the pandemic felt more poignant: culture was withstanding the test of time itself. While this wasn’t my first time visiting these places, I took more time, gave more thought, and recognized deeper beauty at each historical site. This reflective approach paralleled but also expanded my study of Korean history and culture through Stanford’s Sejong Korean Scholars Program, during which I had written a paper comparing the education systems in South Korea and the United States. Now, I acted upon my cultural research - taking charge of my cousins’ enrichment and providing both the U.S. individual intellectual challenge alongside South Korean discipline and collective knowledge formation. Simultaneously, I found new meaning in trying more traditional Korean food, wearing the hanbok, and even getting to play the taepyeongso. These were all testaments to the enduring nature of culture, the bedrock of community.
Before my cultural renaissance, I had always limited my definition of community to the people who were physically next to me: my classmates, my MUN teammates, or my orchestra stand partners. However, during the long reflection time period COVID-19 has given me, I realized “community” isn’t always limited to people who are physically near; “community” also stretches to people sharing the same culture and heritage as I do, even if they’re thousands of miles away.
As soon as I immigrated to the United States, I was immediately faced with cultural barriers. Specifically, I found it hard to adapt to speaking English. What’s more, I discovered that Americans expressed themselves differently from Koreans. For example, in Korea, if the teacher made a mistake, we would patiently wait until they figured it out on their own or hint it to them. In America, students would not hesitate in pointing out their teacher’s mistakes for the purpose of moving on efficiently in class. These types of cultural differences were at times too challenging to overcome, and this would continue being a daily obstacle for me until I started playing the violin in 4th grade.
I’ve learned that through music, I am able to express and convey myself, breaking through whatever cultural or linguistic barrier there may be. In the recording attached, the three pieces I played were Despacito by Luis Fonsi, Dynamite by BTS, and Unravel by Toru Kitajima, which are Spanish, Korean, and Japanese songs respectively. Whether a listener is fluent in those languages or not, I firmly believe that the beautiful expressions of the music were able to reach out to them.
While the specific example I used is music, I believe that interactions between two cultures can happen even when two people don’t speak the same language. Understanding this, I’ve been trying to apply this knowledge little-by-little in real life. For example, whenever I see an immigrant friend at my school face confusion or see an elderly lady at the local supermarket have trouble communicating, I always try my best to help. I hope to continue this process of meeting different people with diverse cultures while leaping across whatever cultural barriers or obstacles we may face.
Green and yellow. On moving-day to the new house, I stood staring at those two unusual colors my new house was painted in. Shocked by the uncommon colors, I looked around the immediate neighbors’ houses and to my dismay, they were all colored in the conventional white and brown. My sister and I tried to convince our parents to repaint the house but my parents were not willing to give in and I had to live with resentment over the house’s untraditional colors. However, my feelings towards the house would soon change with an unexpected turn of events: the pandemic.
My birthday was a few days after the lockdown started and so my circle of friends wanted to drop off their gifts. However, I soon realized that my friends didn’t need my address in order to know where I lived. That was because no one referred to my home by the street address; they all referred to my house by its defining colors. Realizing this, I immediately felt remorseful over the discontent I had approached my house's colors with.
After undergoing this, I realized the importance of embracing diversity and uniqueness. What I had considered to be the house’s flaw and defect ended up being it’s highlight. Expanding this further, in life, being different from what we're around shouldn’t be what marks us as outlaws. Instead, they should be what makes us stronger and more defining because those traits are what makes us special and personal.
“I am not welcomed here.” In many comments on news articles and video segments, people directly affected by Executive Order 13769, which was titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry in the United States” and resulted in hundreds of immigrants being trapped in airports, lamented that that was how they felt. Although I was only in 7th grade at the time, I was struck by how a green card, just one slip of paper, could make a world of difference in how one was treated in America and could closely sympathize as I, like all those trapped people, am an immigrant.
I thought the situation was hopeless for those immigrants, and I was extremely saddened not only because of the unfairness of the situation, but also because I felt like there was nothing meaningful I could do. Although there were protests going on all over the country regarding this issue, I came to realize, to my dismay, that these protests wouldn’t directly help the detainees, even if they put pressure on the administration. Then, I saw an article about how in one airport, immigration lawyers were stepping in to aid the immigrants. These lawyers had left behind everything and ran to airports that were detaining immigrants to provide them with legal aid. One thing was certain: these lawyers stood up in times of crisis and helped these people, who were immigrants like me, when they were lost and helpless. After seeing this immigration crisis play out, it became my greatest ambition to become involved in policy-making and law so that I can help people in times of crisis.