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Introduction

 

Our Goal

The Asia Institute covers Asia not only in its seminars and reports, but engages at a much more deeper level by constant discussion with stakeholders at all levels across Asia about the critical issues of our time: the environment, the impact of technology on society, the future that our youth face and the changing nature of international relations. The Asia Institute is indeed a truly pan-Asian think tank.

We have offices in Washington D.C., in Seoul, in Tokyo and in Hanoi and hold seminars and conduct research projects in all four countries, as well as occasional events in Germany, China and elsewhere in the world.

The Asia Institute considers maintaining a balanced perspective on contemporary issues as its highest priority while taking into account the concerns of Northeast Asia, but also Southeast Asia and Central Asia,  and the interests of all the stakeholders which spans across gender, cultural backgrounds and socio-economic status. these include but are not limited to technical experts, policy makers, local and regional communities and college and high school students.

We provide an objective space wherein a significant discussion on current trends in technology, international relations, the economy and the environment can be carried out. We offer, in the format of seminars (live and on-line) an open platform that allows any and everyone to participate.

The economic growth and integration in Asia is increasing at a remarkable pace in terms of trade, technology and finance. Asia is no longer simply a hub for manufacturing, but also a cultural, intellectual and a strategic center for the world. However, despite Asia’s increasing role on the geopolitical stage, a serious gap remains between the striking speed of integration in terms of logistics, energy and finance and the retarded growth of intellectual communities and cultural exchange that address long-term common priorities. Moreover, new challenges such as climate change and the impact of rapid technological evolution require original strategies that will demand brave and thoughtful discussion and planning.

The Asia Institute is dedicated to increasing the in-depth discussion between the citizens of Asia, and the United States, on the important issues of our age so that it parallels the level of prominence and attention of trade and finance. there is a desperate need for objective analysis and rigorous debate that goes beyond national borders and includes all stakeholders in Asia.

 

Our Focus

The Asia Institute focuses on four interrelated issues that profoundly impact the entire world, but that have not been adequately addressed by most think tanks. We seek to interpret their significance and to plan for a global response through a collaborative dialog that involves a broad range of experts in many countries, especially in Asia.

 

The transformation of our society, and our economy, by the unprecedented rate of technological change

Although the brick-and-mortar buildings around us are unchanged and the borders of countries remain essentially the same, our world has been and utterly transformed by technology. Communications technology and AI are bringing together likes with likes across the globe in unpredictable combinations. Decisions are made in new, unpresented, ways as a result. So also the process of determining truth from fiction is made ultimately more problematic as technology changes how we know and what we know, or do not know.

In addition, 3D printing makes it possible to create virtually anything without any need for manufacturing. responding to the impact of technological change on society will be the major challenge for our age, made more difficult because the many transformations are invisible for most people.

New generations of drones, robots and other remote devices will pose new challenges that will require entirely new policies and treaties on an international scale. We cannot simply hold on to old treaties, we must move forward, and do so quickly.

 

The impact of climate change on our society and its solution through a fundamental reworking of culture, economics and governance at the local, regional and global levels

Climate change is by far the greatest security threat that we face today. Although it has been identified as a profound danger for over twenty years, our economic system and our social and cultural institutions have been incapable of formulating and implementing a response. We must understand how our current global economic and technological system contributes to climate change and formulate concrete steps for adaptation to, and mitigation of, climate change on a global scale. This project will require a complete rethinking of culture, economics, governance, and international relations.

 

The transformation of international relations by technological change, specifically startling shifts in diplomacy, security, education, finance, and trade

Although we use the same terms to describe international relations that we employed 100 years ago, the nature of diplomacy, security, and trade have been altered beyond recognition by technological change. Images, texts, and videos can be transported around the world instantaneously, affecting a true “death of distance,” and increasingly images and reports can be distorted or fabricated.

Similarly, people and goods are transported with great ease over vast distances, and globalization has created enormous displaced populations. Goods can be processed and shipped around the world in an entirely automated manner as a result of the fourth industrial revolution.

Finally, decisions are made by far-flung interest groups around the world who are able to coordinate, and to share financial and political assets without concern for distance. We must entirely rethink the concept of international relations in light of these transformative changes, moving beyond a vague anxiety about globalization to identify the distinct impact of technologies on international relations.

 

The rise of anti-intellectualism and the decline of the application of rigorous scientific approaches to analysis and to problem-solving, even in the midst of rapid technological evolution

The world is caught up in a terrible wave of anti-intellectualism, that ranges from climate change denial to racist essentialism. Such anti-intellectual trends undermine our ability to respond to the pressing issues of our age and encourages a self-indulgent attitude that breeds ignorance and indifference. This development is a product of the debasement of education into a commercial product and the resulting decline in the intellectual rigor in the media and other forms of expression. Politics and policy, journalism and even academics no longer encourage deep intellectual discourse, being increasingly focused on the spectacle.

This new culture is inherently anti-science, even as it embraces glitzy technologies.

We must avoid emotional responses driven by technological bells and whistles, and rather strive to apply a rational scientific approach in policy, in technology and in strategy. We must avoid the anti-science, “bread and circuses” approach to political discourse that we see spreading around the world. Above all, intellectuals must have a strong sense of social responsibility and should be treated as essential figures in society.

The problems we face today, from the environmental crisis to the increasing divide between the rich and poor, can only be solved by initiating a profound contemplation on the state of our civilization that will allow us to cooperate globally to create novel and sustainable solutions. Only when we have addressed the spiritual hunger and psychological insecurities that lead to unrestrained consumption, or ruthless conflict, can we begin find meaningful long-term answers. As Albert Einstein once remarked, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Our research and our endeavors take into account the underlying contradictions within ourselves that have brought about the crisis of this day.

The Asia Institute’s Fukushima Initiative, for example, built a global platform that brings together different forms of expertise from around the world to find a solution to the challenges posed by the Fukushima nuclear disaster. In the process we explored new approaches to collaboration in policy, technology, analysis and implementation. This discussion has also touched on the philosophical and spiritual challenges for us and future generations posed by rapid and disruptive technological change.

The same ideas were then applied to the question of Korean unification, captured in our report “Corea as Commons” which suggests how traditional values, and a cooperative culture could transform the process of economic and institutional integration.

 

Going forward

The Asia Institute is engaged in a dialog with stakeholders from across Asia concerning the future of Asia itself. We ask ourselves how Asia can move beyond traditional geopolitical rivalries and envision an Asia as a peaceful totality in which current integration provides new horizons for cooperation, not competition.

The Asia Institute has produced concrete proposals for a security architecture built around the response to climate change; for a “constitution of information” to respond to the current crisis we faced as a result of the rapid change in communication technology and AI, and mass-scale surveillance, and for new systems to promote international collaboration such as P2P (peer to peer) cooperation throughout Asia that would encourage free interaction of the stakeholders to jointly produce knowledge and other forms of goods/services primarily for “use value” instead of “market value.” Such an approach can temper the ever-widening economic gap and promote empowerment at the grass roots level. We are involved in debates and discussions about how to incorporate the perspectives of experts from the Middle East or Southeast Asia, for example, into the debate on the peaceful reunification of the Korean peninsula. We have also discussed on how ecologists, artists and philosophers can contribute meaningfully in the debate about trade, finance and other forms of integration.

 

Our activities

The Asia Institute has conducted a wide range of programs on culture, society, international relations and security over the last seven years, but our focus remains on the impact of technology on society, the environmental crisis, and the shifting nature of international relations and its implications for education, communications, and governance.

The Asia Institute is committed to promoting meaningful cooperation across the whole of Asia, and we are constantly looking for new opportunities for discussion. We possess in-depth experience with, and knowledge of, the Republic of Korea, Japan, China, Vietnam, and the United States. In addition, we have conducted programs involving the nations of South Asia, the Middle East, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, Africa and Europe.

We are not just committed to analysis and to discussions. We work with stakeholders to deliver a new vision for an integrated and peaceful Asia that is ecologically sustainable and contributes to global civilization through an innovative model of ethical governance.

We believe in promoting meaningful long-term cooperation to respond to the challenges of our times. We bring together individuals and communities to work as a team that can appraise new issues, come up with creative and viable solutions and implement them around the world through robust networks. The Asia Institute is dedicated to creating a new discursive space in which we can come to a consensus on common themes and bring together shareholders from across Asia.

The Asia Institute involves youth at every stage in its programs, giving them a chance to set our priorities, convey their concerns directly to policymakers and experts through our events and our reports, and to engage in meaningful advocacy. It is a sad truth that although the expert has much to learn from the experiences of youth as youth have to learn from the expert, the dialog is inevitably one way. Moreover, we are building bridges across Asia that link youth with decision-makers and experts.

The Asia Institute has prepared reports for the Korea Research Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology (KRIBB), Korea Institute for Geoscience and Materials (KIGAM), Korea Institute for Nuclear Safety (KINS), Seoul National University and the Korea Research Institute for Standards and Science (KRISS). We have conducted seminars and prepared papers and held seminars for the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Riken (Japan), Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (Japan) the Unification Ministry, the University of Tsukuba, KAIST (Korea), Yale University and other educational institutions, NGOs and government organizations in the United States, South Korea, Japan, China, and Vietnam.

The Asia Institute works with its senior researchers, senior associates and partner institutions to engage experts and stakeholders around the world so as to examine critical current issues and suggest possible responses. Our research is aimed at producing accessible, objective evaluations and meaningful suggestions and proposals to policy makers and citizens. The research results take the forms of reports, presentations, articles, seminars, and videos. Our research encompasses materials aimed at the specialist and explanations for generalists that assure that we can build a meaningful consensus about solutions. The position papers, white papers and short articles on contemporary issues produced by the Asia Institute are translated into multiple languages to assure a wide readership in the decision-making process at the international and local level.

 

Emanuel Pastreich

President

The Asia Institute