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Interview with Mr Youngyik Rhim, founder and CEO of Intellicon

Updated: Jan 3, 2020

On August 30, representatives of the Foreign Students World Reporters visited the headquarters of Intellicon for an exclusive interview with the company’s founder and CEO, Mr Youngyik Rhim.

Mr Youngyik Rhim founded the first ever artificial intelligence (AI) legal convergence lab in Korea where their ‘Intelligent Legal Information System’ which uses Meta knowledge convergence was developed. For two consecutive years, 2016 and 2017, Intellicon Meta Lab ranked first in the Competition on Legal Information Extraction/Entailment (COLIEE), proving their technology to be the best in the field of legal artificial intelligence. That was the main reason why we decided to visit Mr Rhim to find out more about Intellicon's AI-based legal information system technology and its role for the company’s social contribution and future mission.

Upon arrival to the office, we were warmly greeted by the staff and then met with the company’s manager, Mr Uicheol Bae and its CEO, Mr Youngyik Rhim himself. After exchanging brief introductions, Mr Rhim gave a presentation on the short, but significant history of AI, focusing on the most ground-breaking moments which paved the way to the AI we all know today. The presentation gave us a better insight not only into the world of AI itself, but also into the basis which the company and its vision were built on.

Mr Rhim gave us a presentation on the history of AI and Intellicon

Since many foreign students who come to Korea are interested in the Fourth Industrial Revolution and in AI as the driving force behind it, we were eager to ask various questions on their behalf, which Mr Rhim kindly answered.

How long have you been working in the field of AI and what do you think has progressed the most over that time?

The history of AI in general, as I mentioned earlier, covers around 50 years and our company has been around for 10 years. I believe that big data as well as computer performance and algorithm improvements are the biggest changes that have caused the most rapid progress over that period of time.

Could you please explain to us the philosophy of the company and what makes Intellicon different from other companies in the same field?

Intellicon is the first AI legal company in Korea and our philosophy and vision is grounded in the thought that technology is unstoppable and that it shall bring happiness to humanity. We believe that legal matters, especially, are very complicated and difficult for ordinary people to handle, so they cannot fully understand what is really happening in the legislative field. There are cases when a person needs a legal expert in their daily life, so our company wants to make dealing with legal issues on a daily basis less complicated and more affordable with the help of technology. By making legal consultation more accessible via technology, we also help with creating preventive jurisdiction.

How do you think AI and technological progress have influenced the generation gap?

I think that AI has, paradoxically, accelerated the widening of the generation gap nowadays because elderly people cannot easily handle modern technology, such as smart phones or AI. This is a paradox because in the future, AI systems will be put into a very simple phone, allowing anyone, regardless of age, to use the technology easily, thus making the generation gap disappear

Have you always imagined yourself working in the AI business or did you have different dreams growing up?

When I was a student, I did dream many unrealistic dreams. At that time, I was deeply interested in the secrets of nature, so I studied Physics and Maths very diligently because I wanted to understand what was going on in the universe. However, my interests and vision slowly changed. In my late twenties, I became involved in developing the AI tutor system, nowadays known as EduTech System, by accident. So, back then I did a lot of research on AI systems, focusing on education and, namely, Math tutoring. That opportunity changed my mind completely. Even though at first it was just a dream for the future, I narrowed my field of interests and focused on developing a legal AI system. Therefore, if you think of me growing up, my interests have changed tremendously over the span of around 20 years, since I tend to always keep my mind open to new ideas, developments and opportunities.

What is the biggest challenge of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in your opinion?

Well, AI is just a form of technology, but from a social point of view, many people don't seem to understand its mechanism. As you know, whether it is law or politics, ethics, philosophy or sociology, all knowledge systems have to reach a consensus with the general audience. Taking this into an account, we can say that like most things, AI also has two sides. Undoubtedly, it has valuable and helpful attributes, but there is also a dark side to it. People are afraid that AI systems might replace humans and make them lose their jobs. In that case, it is true that there are many side effects when it comes to AI, so we have to draw up a social consensus about the future of that technology. Therefore, I believe that rather than experts only, all kinds of people should try to be involved and discuss the future of AI.

Since you were also studying abroad, what was the biggest challenge you faced then and how did you overcome it? Do you have any advice for us, foreign students studying away from home like you did?

I think I can understand how you feel about studying abroad very well. When I went to the United States for the first time, my biggest struggle was that I couldn’t understand everything the locals were saying. I was not good at English at that time. Naturally, I was worried a lot about the language barrier in the beginning. My first advice is to try to overcome the language barrier, and the second one is to make local friends in order to become aware of the country's culture and customs. When you speak the language, you can understand the people and adjust to the lifestyle in a foreign country more easily.

How would you introduce AI and emphasise its importance in developing countries and countries suffering from poverty, where advanced technology is not always a priority?

As you know, Korea was also very poor around 40 years ago. What in your opinion, where did Korea's potential for rapid development lie?

In human labour, since population at that time was very hard-working, and in the right mindset.

I think that the key factor for development is education. Education is the future. Therefore, national leaders should make strong policies for increasing the standard of education systems to prepare young generations for the future. For example, AI education in China starts as early as primary school and continues throughout middle school and high school. Proper advertisement of it is also an important factor.

What is your opinion about the ethical issues that AI brings? In case accidents involving AI-operated machines occur, who do you think should be held responsible?

Ethical issues are AI's biggest problem and nowadays many experts are trying to solve it. Personally, I think that AI ethics is being developed right now. Actually, the current AI is called “weak-AI” since at this stage it still has no conscience. This is where the problem lies. So, in those cases it is difficult to put the responsibility either on AI or on humans exclusively. I believe that solving the ethical issues is the first step in the future of AI systems. My opinion is that the three components - ethics, social issues and law - cannot be split, they are always together and should be dealt with as such. I’ve also heard that nowadays Singapore has been including its government, scholars and ordinary people in developing a system of rules and regulations for AI with the goal of eliminating such issues in the future.

Our Foreign Students World Reporters' representatives with Mr Youngyik Rhim

Since we were born in the digital era, we might not notice how much technological progress has influenced our daily lives. However, from a historical point of view humanity has advanced most rapidly in the last 50 years and Korea is no exception of that phenomena. Being a leader in the tech field, the country has attracted many foreign students who wish to learn about AI and its implications for a better future. Our hosts at Intellicon were kind enough to share their professional experience with us, hoping to reach the young international audience. Moreover, Mr Youngyik Rhim’s words turned out to be not only informative, but also motivational as he talked about his life as a student abroad, the challenges that come with it and how dreams evolve in the course of a lifetime. Just like the progress of technology, human will is also unstoppable in many ways, so even when setting goals, it is important to remain flexible in order to find one’s true calling.

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