Exciting news: Chris Eldred of the Berggruen Institute sent this notice (from his Nov. 13, 2020 email)
Renowned science fiction novelists Hao Jingfang, Chen Qiufan, and Wang Yao (Xia Jia) will be featured in a virtual event next Tuesday, and I thought their discussion may be of interest to you and your readers. The event will explore how AI is used in contemporary Chinese science fiction, and the writers’ roundtable will address questions such as: How does Chinese sci-fi literature since the Reform and Opening-Up compare to sci-fi writing in the West? How does the Wandering Earth narrative and Chinese perspectives on home influence ideas about the impact of AI on the future?
Berggruen Fellow Hao Jingfang is an economist by training and an award-winning author (Hugo Award for Best Novelette). This event will be co-hosted with the University of Cambridge Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence.
This event will be live streamed on Zoom (agenda and registration link here) on Tuesday, November 17th, from 8:30-11:50 AM GMT / 4:30-7:50 PM CST. Simultaneous English translation will be provided.
The Berggruen Institute is offering a conversation with authors and researchers about how Chinese science fiction grapples with artificial intelligence (from the Berggruen Institute’s AI Narratives in Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction event page),
AI Narratives in Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction
November 17, 2020
Platform & Language:
Zoom (Chinese and English, with simultaneous translation)
Click here to register.
1. How does Chinese sci-fi literature since the Reform and Opening-Up compare to sci-fi writing in the West?
2. How does the Wandering Earth narrative and Chinese perspectives on home influence ideas about the impact of AI on the future
About the Speakers:
WU Yan is a professor and PhD supervisor at the Humanities Center of Southern University of Science and Technology. He is a science fiction writer, vice chairman of the China Science Writers Association, recipient of the Thomas D Clareson Award of the American Science Fiction Research Association, and co-founder of the Xingyun (Nebula) Awards for Global Chinese Science Fiction. He is the author of science fictions such as Adventure of the Soul and The Sixth Day of Life and Death, academic works such as Outline of Science Fiction Literature, and textbooks such as Science and Fantasy – Training Course for Youth Imagination and Scientific Innovation.
Sanfeng is a science fiction researcher, visiting researcher of the Humanities Center of Southern University of Science and Technology, chief researcher of Shenzhen Science & Fantasy Growth Foundation, honorary assistant professor of the University of Hong Kong, Secretary-General of the World Chinese Science Fiction Association, and editor-in-chief of Nebula Science Fiction Review. His research covers the history of Chinese science fiction, development of science fiction industry, science fiction and urban development, science fiction and technological innovation, etc.
About the Event
Keynote 1 “Chinese AI Science Fiction in the Early Period of Reform and Opening-Up (1978-1983)”
Abstract: Science fiction on the themes of computers and robots emerged early but in a scattered manner in China. In the stories, the protagonists are largely humanlike assistants chiefly collecting data or doing daily manual labor, and this does not fall in the category of today’s artificial intelligence. Major changes took place after the reform and opening-up in 1978 in this regard. In 1979, the number of robot-themed works ballooned. By 1980, the quality of works also saw a quantum leap, and stories on the nature of artificial intelligence began to appear. At this stage, the AI works such as Spy Case Outside the Pitch, Dulles and Alice, Professor Shalom’s Misconception, and Riot on the Ziwei Island That Shocked the World describe how intelligent robots respond to activities such as adversarial ball games (note that these are not chess games), fully integrate into the daily life of humans, and launch collective riots beyond legal norms under special circumstances. The ideas that the growth of artificial intelligence requires a suitable environment, stable family relationship, social adaptation, etc. are still of important value.
Keynote 2 “Algorithm of the Soul: Narrative of AI in Recent Chinese Science Fiction”
Abstract: As artificial intelligence has been applied to the fields of technology and daily life in the past decade, the AI narrative in Chinese science fiction has also seen seismic changes. On the one hand, young authors are aware that the “soul” of AI comes, to a large extent, from machine learning algorithms. As a result, their works often highlight the existence and implementation of algorithms, bringing maneuverability and credibility to the AI. On the other hand, the authors prefer to focus on the conflicts and contradictions in emotions, ethics, and morality caused by AI that penetrate into human life. If the previous AI-themed science fiction is like a distant robot fable, the recent AI narrative assumes contemporary and practical significance. This report focuses on exploring the AI-themed science fiction by several young authors (including Hao Jingfang’s [emphasis mine] The Problem of Love and Where Are You, Chen Qiufan’s Image Maker and Algorithm for Life, and Xia Jia’s Let’s Have a Talk and Shejiang, Baoshu’s Little Girl and Shuangchimu’s The Cock Prince, etc.) to delve into the breakthroughs and achievements in AI narratives.
Hao Jingfang, one of the authors mentioned in the abstract, is currently a fellow at the Berggruen Institute and she is scheduled to be a guest according to the co-host’s the University of Cambridge’s Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence (CFI) page: Workshop: AI Narratives in Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction programme description (I’ll try not to include too much repetitive information),
Workshop 2 – November 17, 2020
AI Narratives in Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction
16:30-16:40 CST (8:30-8:40 GMT) Introductions
SONG Bing, Vice President, Co-Director, Berggruen Research Center, Peking University
Kanta Dihal, Postdoctoral Researcher, Project Lead on Global Narratives, Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, University of Cambridge
16:40-17:10 CST (8:40-9:10 GMT) Talk 1 [Chinese AI SciFi and the early period]
17:10-17:40 CST (9:10-9:40 GMT) Talk 2 [Algorithm of the soul]
17:40-18:10 CST (9:40-10:10 GMT) Q&A
18:10-18:20 CST (10:10-10:20 GMT) Break
18:20-19:50 CST (10:20-11:50 GMT) Roundtable Discussion
HAO Jingfang（郝景芳）, author, researcher & Berggruen Fellow
Baoshu (宝树), sci-fi and fantasy writer
CHEN Qiufan（陈楸帆), sci-fi writer, screenwriter & translator
Feidao（飞氘), sci-fi writer, Associate Professor in the Department of Chinese Language and Literature at Tsinghua University
WANG Yao（王瑶，pen name “Xia Jia”), sci-fi writer, Associate Professor of Chinese Literature at Xi’an Jiaotong University
ABOUT CHINESE [Science] FICTION
“What Makes Chinese Fiction Chinese?”, by Xia Jia and Ken Liu,
“The Worst of All Possible Universes and the Best of All Possible Earths: Three Body and Chinese Science Fiction”, Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu
SHORT NOVELS ABOUT ROBOTS/AI/ALGORITHM:
“The Robot Who Liked to Tell Tall Tales”, by Feidao, translated by Ken Liu
“Goodnight, Melancholy”, by Xia Jia, translated by Ken Liu
“The Reunion”, by Chen Qiufan, translated by Emily Jin and Ken Liu, MIT Technology Review, December 16, 2018
“Folding Beijing”, by Hao Jingfang, translated by Ken Liu
“Let’s have a talk”, by Xia Jia
For those of us on the West Coast of North America the event times are: Tuesday, November 17, 2020, 1430 – 1750 or 2:30 – 5:50 pm. *Added On Nov.16.20 at 11:55 am PT: For anyone who can’t attend the live event, a full recording will be posted to YouTube.*
Kudos to all involved in organizing and participating in this event. It’s important to get as many viewpoints as possible on AI and its potential impacts.
Finally and for the curious, there’s another posting about Chinese science fiction here (May 31, 2019).