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On National Crises and the Intellectuals — Focused on GB and KR

Dear Mr. Stebbings,

Today marks the thirtieth day of my challenge to post meaningful content on the web, and as I sit down to write my final piece, my thoughts turn to the crisis facing my home country, the Republic of Korea. As a student, I feel a deep sense of responsibility for the foreboding challenges that lie ahead. The Republic of Korea and the United Kingdom share many similarities in our struggles. As intellectuals, we must consider how to help our nations overcome these crises.

But the question remains — what can an individual do to impact the ominous trajectory of a nation? It may seem daunting, even overwhelming, to contemplate the scale of these challenges. And yet, in the words of the great Irish poet William Butler Yeats, "Think where man's glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends." We must recognize the power of the individual to effect change and to be a catalyst for progress, no matter how small our contribution may seem.

National Difficulties

Let us first embark on a journey of discovery, exploring the trials and tribulations that beset our nations. For it is only by shining a light on the challenges, we face that we can begin to overcome them.

  • Economic Difficulties — The toll of trade barriers and political tensions has weighed heavily upon our nations. Across the sea, Brexit's impact continues to reverberate through the United Kingdom as the once mighty nation grapples with declining business investment and consumer confidence. The shadow of uncertainty looms, casting a pall over the land as the country struggles to find its footing amidst the turmoil. Meanwhile, in Korea, the ongoing trade tensions between China and the United States have dealt a heavy blow to the economy, leaving the nation reeling from the aftermath. Caught between the tides of two great powers, Korea finds itself navigating a treacherous diplomatic landscape, searching for a way to maintain equilibrium in the face of mounting pressure. And yet, amidst the chaos and confusion, hope remains as both nations strive to overcome adversity and emerge more vital than ever. This is because the UK is in a unique and special position to balance Europe and the US, and Korea is in a unique and special role to balance China and the US.
  • Social Difficulties — The shores of Britain are beset by a myriad of social problems, ranging from poverty and domestic violence to drug abuse and mental health issues. The once great nation is gripped by a malaise threatening to consume its people as families break down and children fend for themselves. And yet, the people of Britain persevere, clinging to hope in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges. Across the sea, Korea faces a different but no less daunting challenge — a plummeting birth rate that leaves an aging population in its wake. The specter of social isolation haunts the young, and the old as healthcare and social services strain under the weight of an increasingly elderly populace. Everyone is alienating everyone else and fighting against each other in this small land. Despite the valiant efforts of the Koreans to reverse the trend, the tide seems to be against them as economic growth and productivity decline and social inequality worsen. And yet, amidst the gloom, there remains a glimmer of hope — a stubborn determination to push forward, to find a way through the darkness and emerge into the light on the other side.
  • Geopolitical Difficulties — Scotland, a land steeped in history and tradition, has long harbored aspirations of independence from the United Kingdom. After the divisive Brexit referendum, these desires grew more muscular, with Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon calling for a second independence referendum. Across the sea, Korea faces its challenges — geopolitical difficulties that threaten to upend the delicate balance of power in the region. North Korea's missile and nuclear weapons tests have raised concerns about the potential for atomic terror, casting a shadow of fear over the land. And yet, despite these dangers, Korea remains steadfast in its determination to promote peace and stability in the region. The country is acutely aware of the human rights situation in North Korea and holds out hope for reunification in the long term. Though the road ahead may be fraught with danger and uncertainty, Korea remains resolute in its commitment to forging a better future for all.
  • Administrative Difficulties — In the fall of 2022, the United Kingdom government saw Prime Minister Liz Truss resign after only 45 days in office due to administrative blunders. In October 2022, Prime Minister Liz Truss announced a massive package of welfare cuts and tax cuts, which she ultimately took responsibility for and resigned as the UK was suffering from massive inflation, which mired the British government into political turmoil. Meanwhile, in Korea, the political landscape is rife with difficulties — corruption, polarization, and a lack of transparency threaten to erode public trust in the government. Critics argue that the country's political system falls short of embracing democratic principles, with high-profile corruption scandals adding to disillusionment among the populace. Moreover, the deepening divide between conservative and progressive factions has only exacerbated gridlock and made it increasingly difficult to pass meaningful legislation. And yet, amidst these challenges, efforts are underway to strengthen democratic institutions and promote greater accountability and transparency. May these efforts bear fruit, and may Korea and UK emerge more robust and united from this crucible.

As I outline the trials and tribulations plaguing our nations, a sense of sorrow overcomes me. For I cannot help but lament the foreboding future that lies ahead. The weight of our collective struggles feels heavy upon my heart, casting a shadow over any glimmer of hope that may flicker within. Oh, how I wish for brighter days to come, yet the clouds of uncertainty loom ever closer, threatening to engulf us in their darkness.

The duties of the Intellectuals

To make a lasting impact on the trajectory of a nation, we must not only have the desire for change but also wield influence and power. We must strive to obtain the necessary resources, knowledge, and expertise to make a meaningful impact. With our efforts, we can shape the direction of our nation, contributing to progress and development. Wielding influence and shaping a nation's trajectory is no small feat. It demands a careful and considered approach grounded in a deep understanding of the challenges. And yet, it is a goal worth striving towards, a noble aspiration that speaks to the very heart of our humanity.

To begin this journey, we must first obtain power — a power born not of brute force or coercion but of education, knowledge, and understanding. Then, through these channels, we can make a meaningful impact on the world around us, leveraging our resources and influence to effect change on a grand scale.

  • The financial world impacts society and our nation positively. Education and diverse perspectives are the foundation upon which we can build our efforts to create positive change. Building networks and relationships with like-minded individuals, investing in innovative startups, providing mentorship and guidance, and advocating for policy change are crucial steps toward gaining power and effecting change.
  • Scientists and engineers are critical in shaping our nation's trajectory. They can conduct research and development, develop sustainable solutions, participate in policy-making, educate the public, and mentor the next generation.
  • Literary professionals also have a responsibility to infuse positive vibes into society. They can promote social justice and human rights, spark dialogue and debate about pressing issues, preserve a nation's culture and heritage, provide insight and perspective on complex issues and events, and educate and inspire others. Using their writing to effect change, they can leave a legacy of progress and enlightenment for future generations.

All of these combined, we find ourselves within the realm of polymaths. A polymath is a person who has expertise in multiple fields of study, such as the sciences, humanities, arts, and social sciences. Polymaths are often characterized by their ability to connect and synthesize knowledge from diverse disciplines and apply it to new and complex problems.

Throughout the annals of British and Korean history, we can uncover remarkable examples of polymaths whose expansive knowledge and deep understanding of diverse fields were matched only by their sense of social responsibility. These individuals, whose mighty intellects spanned the sciences, humanities, and arts, left an indelible mark on their respective societies and continue to inspire generations to this day. Moreover, through their unwavering commitment to learning and persistent sense of duty to their fellow human beings, these polymaths embodied what it means to be an actual Renaissance person.

Rising to Polymaths

Knowledge is power — Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon was a visionary whose intellectual contributions impacted the trajectory of England, leaving an enduring legacy that can still be felt today. His advocacy of the scientific method and emphasis on empirical observation and experimentation broke down the limitations of traditional academic learning, opening up new avenues for interdisciplinary research. This helped England to progress in science and technology and develop a more evidence-based and innovative approach to knowledge. His desire for inductive reasoning would later lead to the founding of the Royal Society.

Bacon's influence, however, extended far beyond the realm of science. His contributions to English politics and law helped shape the legal system and political institutions that have played a vital role in English society today. He played a significant role in developing the standard law legal system. His ideas about the separation of powers and the importance of individual liberty have continued to shape political discourse in England and beyond.

Reading is our proper duty — Dasan

This one thing, reading, enables us to keep company with the sages of old, to enlighten the people on the path, to master the divine law, to assist the king in his affairs, and to raise men above the class of beasts and worms, and to sustain the vast universe so that reading is our proper duty. (오직 독서 이 한 가지 일이 위로는 옛 성현(聖賢)을 좇아 함께 할 수 있게 하고 아래로는 백성을 길이 깨우칠 수 있게 하며 신명에 통달하게 하고 임금의 정사를 도울 수 있게 할 뿐 아니라 인간으로 하여금 짐승과 벌레의 부류를 벗어나 저 광대한 우주를 지탱하게 만드니 독서야말로 우리들의 본분(本分)이라 하겠다.)

Technology shouldn't be looked down upon. Technology plays a massive role in our lives, and we need to recognize that. It is not only the possession of humanity that distinguishes man from beast, but also the possession and development of technology. We should face the fact that we are backward and adopt modern Western science and technology as soon as possible. (기술을 천히 여겨서는 안 된다. 기술이 인간의 생활에서 차지하는 비중과 역할은 대단히 크다. 이를 올바로 인식해야 한다. 인간과 짐승을 구별하는 것은 인륜을 가진 데만 있는 것이 아니라 기술을 소유하고 그걸 발전시켜 나가는 데 있다. 우리는 낙후된 실정을 직시하고 어서 빨리 서양의 근대 과학 기술을 받아들여야 한다.)

Dasan was a visionary who dedicated his life to serving his country and advancing its progress, despite the historical difficulties confronting Korea during his time. He was a vocal critic of the corrupt government officials and the social injustices that plagued Korean society. He used his vast knowledge and influence to advocate for reforms and improvements.

Dasan's contributions extended to various fields, from science and agriculture to economics and governance. He developed innovative farming techniques, introduced new technologies, and wrote extensively on economic policy and management. His efforts aimed to create a more inclusive and transparent government that prioritized the welfare of its citizens, and he saw these reforms as essential to the progress and prosperity of Korea.

Moreover, Dasan was a crucial figure in the Silhak movement, which sought to incorporate modern Western knowledge and scientific principles into Korean society. He recognized that Korea's reliance on ancient and traditional knowledge hindered progress and advocated for incorporating modern scientific methods and ideas to drive Korea's advancement.

Conclusion — P vs. NP Problems

As we contemplate the challenges facing our nations, the Republic of Korea and the United Kingdom, we must recognize the power of our collective efforts to shape the future of our countries. We must work together to build a peaceful and prosperous future in a world beset by uncertainty and conflict. We must harness the power of our knowledge and expertise to overcome the economic, social, geopolitical, and administrative difficulties that beset us. We must build bridges of understanding and cooperation, using our diverse perspectives to find innovative solutions to complex problems. But, most importantly, we must remain committed to the pursuit of progress and enlightenment, grounded in our shared values of intellectual curiosity, social responsibility, and the pursuit of justice.

As I pondered the intricacies of real-world problems, I couldn't help but draw a comparison to the enigmatic PP vs. NPNP problem in computational theory. Currently, the best-known algorithms for solving NPNP-hard problems require exponential time in the worst case, which makes them impractical for solving large instances of these problems. If a polynomial-time algorithm were discovered (if P=NPP = NP), it would revolutionize many fields and have significant practical implications. Similarly, finding efficient solutions to other complex social problems, such as inequality, discrimination, political polarization, environmental degradation, and global poverty, could also revolutionize many fields in social sciences and have significant practical implications for improving the well-being of individuals and societies. Let us solve NPNP-hard problems—social and national challenges—in polynomial time to solve the world's complex problems.

Let us embrace the legacy of polymaths, such as Francis Bacon and Dasan, who used their vast knowledge and influence to shape the trajectory of their respective societies. Let us emulate their commitment to progress and innovation, using our talents to drive positive change and create a better future for all. We must invest in education and diverse perspectives, build networks and relationships with deep-minded individuals, mentor the next generation, and advocate for policy change. We must use our writing, research, and advocacy to promote justice, human rights, and sustainable development, leaving a legacy of progress and enlightenment for future generations.

In the end, the fate of our nations lies in our hands. Let us use our collective efforts to overcome the challenges that beset us and build a peaceful and prosperous future for all. Let us embrace the power of our knowledge and expertise to drive positive change, guided by our shared values of intellectual curiosity, social responsibility, and the pursuit of justice.

We owe it to ourselves, our nations, and future generations to rise to this challenge. So let us join hands and work together to build a brighter future.

Best regards,
Sunghyun Cho