Predicting the Future of Technology – No Easy Task

In February, we began a series on Samsung Fellows, a title given to key technology experts throughout Samsung affiliates who boast leading technology skills and have made substantial contributions to Samsung’s key businesses and research and development.

Today, in this second part of the series, we want you to meet Dr. In Kyeong Yoo, who heads the Material & Device Research Center within Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology. Dr. Yoo is actually the first person to receive the title of Samsung Fellow back in 2002 and is a renowned expert in the field of ferroelectrics.

Dr. Yoo, who received his doctorate in Material Science and Engineering from Virginia Tech, has published more than 30 papers and filed more than 60 patents and developed the world’s first 1T-1C 64K PZT FRAM (Ferroelectric Random Access Memory) in 1996.

Dr. Yoo believes that the most important responsibility as a Samsung Fellow is to lay the foundation for future technology. He himself has set a mission to secure seed and early-stage technologies for new businesses and new growth areas.



In a recent interview with Samsung Village, Dr. Yoo shared his insights into how we may be able to predict the future of technology and how we can be ready for these new emerging technologies.

Samsung Village: Dr. Yoo, do you think it’s possible to predict what the future of technology will look like?

Yoo: Well, rather than predict, I would say it’s about making reasonable inference. Similar to how futurists try to forecast the future, you have to also understand the mega trends of the overall society to see what lies ahead and not just analyze how technology has developed from the past. It’s not easy to suggest something new and it takes a lot of hard thinking.

Deductive reasoning can lead to relatively accurate predictions about future technology but has limited scope in knowledge. On the other hand, inductive reasoning looks at the big trends and therefore can be insightful, but it can also be too general and inaccurate. Creating new business models or products is possible when one engages in abduction. Bruce Sterling, the science fiction author, said predicting the future correctly was similar to works of detectives.


Technology Roadmap

SV: Learning from the past to forecast the future… sounds very interesting. May we ask if there is anything that you personally learned from the past?

Yoo: I’ve looked at all the major events that changed the world since 1850 and categorized them according to which countries led these events and the number of such events. From analyzing this, you can see what is called power law that is found in network, for example.   

In other words, when a certain country has the influence over others in leading certain important changes, we will see that information, resources, manpower will concentrate to that country, which leads to a stronger economy, as well as stronger industries, corporations and even research capabilities. And it's most likely that researchers in these influential countries will be able to start a new technology trend faster than others.


Graph 1

SV: Does that mean we can't engage in new and creative research and development until a country becomes powerful?

Yoo: Not necessarily. I do agree that the research institutes in an influential country have a better chance in leading the future with creative research. But the opposite can be true. That is, when a corporation or a research center triggers a nation to become influential, they too can help lead the future.


SV: Where do you see the future of technology expanding into?

Yoo: As you can see below, the number of technological or scientific events that changed the world stalled in the 1980s but began to rise again in the 1990s. In particular, they have been increasing in the areas of biotechnology and communications. For us, we should take note of the rising application of silicon in medical and telecom industries. 


Graph 2


SV: One might point out that a culture of accepting failures is needed for creative research to really take root. But for a corporation, that might mean higher costs or significant risks.

Yoo: Obviously, there are some areas where not even a single mistake at any level can be accepted. But that doesn’t mean you should be afraid about the future. Peter Drucker said that innovation could be developed as a practice based on how one looks systematically for the opportunities and how one judges the chances for their success or the risks of their failure.


In Kyeong Yoo 2


SV: Any final words of wisdom for Samsung researchers?

Yoo: Experts who claim to have better knowledge than others need to be careful about the bias. So-called experts may believe that they are more accurate than the average people – maybe once in every five occasions. But that also implies that there is a chance they may be incorrect in as many cases. A classic example is that of a thesis which was rejected by a very professional academic society but awarded the Nobel Prize later. Experts always have to look at the world with modesty.