Tag Archives: Berggruen Institute

Congratulations! Noēma magazine’s first year anniversary

Apparently, I am an idiot—if the folks at Expunct and other organizations passionately devoted to their own viewpoints are to be believed.

To be specific, Berggruen Institute (which publishes Noēma magazine) has attracted remarkably sharp criticism and, by implication, that seems to include anyone examining, listening, or reading the institute’s various communication efforts.

Perhaps you’d like to judge the quality of the ideas for yourself?

Abut the Institute and about the magazine

The institute is a think tank founded by Nicolas Berggruen, US-based billionaire investor and philanthropist, and Nathan Gardels, journalist and editor-in-chief of Noēma magazine, in 2010. Before moving onto the magazine’s first anniversary, here’s more about the Institute from its About webpage,

Ideas for a Changing World

We live in a time of great transformations. From capitalism, to democracy, to the global order, our institutions are faltering. The very meaning of the human is fragmenting.

The Berggruen Institute was established in 2010 to develop foundational ideas about how to reshape political and social institutions in the face of these great transformations. We work across cultures, disciplines and political boundaries, engaging great thinkers to develop and promote long-term answers to the biggest challenges of the 21st Century.

As the for the magazine, here’s more from the About Us webpage (Note: I have rearranged the paragraph order),

In ancient Greek, noēma means “thinking” or the “object of thought.” And that is our intention: to delve deeply into the critical issues transforming the world today, at length and with historical context, in order to illuminate new pathways of thought in a way not possible through the immediacy of daily media. In this era of accelerated social change, there is a dire need for new ideas and paradigms to frame the world we are moving into.

Noema is a magazine exploring the transformations sweeping our world. We publish essays, interviews, reportage, videos and art on the overlapping realms of philosophy, governance, geopolitics, economics, technology and culture. In doing so, our unique approach is to get out of the usual lanes and cross disciplines, social silos and cultural boundaries. From artificial intelligence and the climate crisis to the future of democracy and capitalism, Noema Magazine seeks a deeper understanding of the most pressing challenges of the 21st century.

Published online and in print by the Berggruen Institute, Noema grew out of a previous publication called The WorldPost, which was first a partnership with HuffPost and later with The Washington Post. Noema publishes thoughtful, rigorous, adventurous pieces by voices from both inside and outside the institute. While committed to using journalism to help build a more sustainable and equitable world, we do not promote any particular set of national, economic or partisan interests.

First anniversary

Noēma’s anniversary is being marked by its second paper publication (the first was produced for the magazine’s launch). From a July 1, 2021 announcement received via email,

June 2021 marked one year since the launch of Noema Magazine, a crucial milestone for the new publication focused on exploring and amplifying transformative ideas. Noema is working to attract audiences through longform perspectives and contemporary artwork that weave together threads in philosophy, governance, geopolitics, economics, technology, and culture.

“What began more than seven years ago as a news-driven global voices platform for The Huffington Post known as The WorldPost, and later in partnership with The Washington Post, has been reimagined,” said Nathan Gardels, editor-in-chief of Noema. “It has evolved into a platform for expansive ideas through a visual lens, and a timely and provocative portal to plumb the deeper issues behind present events.”

The magazine’s editorial board, involved in the genesis and as content drivers of the magazine, includes Orhan Pamuk, Arianna Huffington, Fareed Zakaria, Reid Hoffman, Dambisa Moyo, Walter Isaacson, Pico Iyer, and Elif Shafak. Pieces by thinkers cracking the calcifications of intellectual domains include, among many others:

·      Francis Fukuyama on the future of the nation-state

·      A collage of commentary on COVID with Yuval Harari and Jared Diamond 

·      An interview with economist Mariana Mazzucato on “mission-oriented government”

·      Taiwan’s Digital Minister Audrey Tang on digital democracy

·      Hedge-fund giant Ray Dalio in conversation with Nobel laureate Joe Stiglitz

·      Shannon Vallor on how AI is making us less intelligent and more artificial

·      Former Governor Jerry Brown in conversation with Stewart Brand 

·      Ecologist Suzanne Simard on the intelligence of forest ecosystems

·      A discussion on protecting the biosphere with Bill Gates’s guru Vaclav Smil 

·      An original story by Chinese science-fiction writer Hao Jingfang

Noema seeks to highlight how the great transformations of the 21st century are reflected in the work of today’s artistic innovators. Most articles are accompanied by an original illustration, melding together an aesthetic experience with ideas in social science and public policy. Among others, in the past year, the magazine has featured work from multimedia artist Pierre Huyghe, illustrator Daniel Martin Diaz, painter Scott Listfield, graphic designer and NFT artist Jonathan Zawada, 3D motion graphics artist Kyle Szostek, illustrator Moonassi, collage artist Lauren Lakin, and aerial photographer Brooke Holm. Additional contributions from artists include Berggruen Fellows Agnieszka Kurant and Anicka Yi discussing how their work explores the myth of the self.

Noema is available online and annually in print; the magazine’s second print issue will be released on July13, 2021. The theme of this issue is “planetary realism,” which proposes to go beyond the exhausted notions of globalization and geopolitical competition among nation-states to a new “Gaiapolitik.” It addresses the existential challenge of climate change across all borders and recognizes that human civilization is but one part of the ecology of being that encompasses multiple intelligences from microbes to forests to the emergent global exoskeleton of AI and internet connectivity (more on this in the letter from the editors below).

Published by the Berggruen Institute, Noema is an incubator for the Institute’s core ideas, such as “participation without populism,” “pre-distribution” and universal basic capital (vs. income), and the need for dialogue between the U.S. and China to avoid an AI arms race or inadvertent war.

“The world needs divergent thinking on big questions if we’re going to meet the challenges of the 21st century; Noema publishes bold and experimental ideas,” said Kathleen Miles, executive editor of Noema. “The magazine cross-fertilizes ideas across boundaries and explores correspondences among them in order to map out the terrain of the great transformations underway.”  

I notice Suzanne Simard (from the University of British Columbia and author of “Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest”) on the list of essayists along with a story by Chinese science fiction writer, Hao Jingfang.

Simard was mentioned here in a May 12, 2021 posting (scroll down to the “UBC forestry professor, Suzanne Simard’s memoir going to the movies?” subhead) when it was announced that her then not yet published memoir will be a film starring Amy Adams (or so they hope).

Hao Jingfang was mentioned here in a November 16, 2020 posting titled: “Telling stories about artificial intelligence (AI) and Chinese science fiction; a Nov. 17, 2020 virtual event” (co-hosted by the Berggruen Institute and University of Cambridge’s Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence [CFI]).

A month after Noēma’s second paper issue on July 13, 2021, the theme and topics appear especially timely in light of the extensive news coverage in Canada and many other parts of the world given to the Monday, August, 9, 2021 release of the sixth UN Climate report raising alarms over irreversible impacts. (Emily Chung’s August 12, 2021 analysis for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation [CBC] offers a little good news for those severely alarmed by the report.) Note: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the UN body tasked with assessing the science related to climate change.

Telling stories about artificial intelligence (AI) and Chinese science fiction; a Nov. 17, 2020 virtual event

[downloaded from https://www.berggruen.org/events/ai-narratives-in-contemporary-chinese-science-fiction/]

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.

Discussion points:

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)”

(改革开放早期(1978-1983)的中国AI科幻小说)

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”

(灵魂的算法:近期中国科幻小说中的AI叙事)

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

Programme

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

Host:

HAO Jingfang(郝景芳), author, researcher & Berggruen Fellow

Guests:

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

Suggested Readings

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

Science Fiction in China: 2016 in Review

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).

Singapore as banyan tree, bonsai, and nanotechnology: a truckload of metaphors

There’s a fascinating essay and political analysis by George Yeo (former Foreign Minister of Singapore, etc.) about Singapore’s state of affairs on it’s 50th anniversary in The World Post (a Huffington Post and Berggruen Institute partnership project). From Yeo’s Aug. 3, 2015 essay,

Why Singapore at 50 Is Like a Banyan Tree, a Bonsai and Nanotechnology

Under the late Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore — which this week is celebrating its 50th anniversary as a nation — was unabashedly a hierarchical society. When asked if Singapore was a nanny state, he replied that, if it were one, he was proud to have fostered it. But he also knew that Singapore society was entering a new phase.

In November 1990, Lee Kuan Yew stepped aside to let Goh Chok Tong take over as prime minister. The state retreated a little; controls were carefully loosened; greater diversity was tolerated if not selectively encouraged. As minister for information and the arts, I was happy to push some boundaries — censorship, use of dialects and Singlish, greater emphasis of pre-PAP history and promotion of our diverse ancestral heritage. These were all sensitive issues and I had to manage senior cabinet colleagues artfully. A speech I made about the need to prune the banyan tree in order that civic participation could flourish resonated with many Singaporeans. Pruning the banyan tree means cutting down hierarchy. …

Diversity causes tension. In hierarchical societies, diversity is frowned upon because it makes top-down organization more difficult. Standardization improves efficiency but it also leads to oppression.

Many years ago, the late Cardinal Jan Schotte told me this story about Pope John Paul II, whom he served as the secretary of the Synod of Bishops in the Vatican. Drafting a speech for the Holy Father, Cardinal Schotte inserted a sentence for the pope to say that “despite our differences, we are one.” John Paul II gently chided him and replaced “despite” with “because of.” “Because of our differences, we are one.”

The particularity of the individual is sacrosanct. Each of us is unique; each is ultimately responsible for his own life. The correction by the pope was not of style but of deep principle. Diversity is not to be merely tolerated; it is to be celebrated. For those who believe in God, every human being carries a divine imprint which unites us. For Confucianists and atheists, every human being has a moral core which also makes us one. …

I was most interested in the nanotechnology metaphor and how Yeo relates it to Singapore,

During his first term as chief minister of the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, N. Chandrababu Naidu compared the workings of Singapore to nanotechnology. Yes, we are small but we pack a lot into a tiny space and are able to network Singapore to the entire world.

Singapore is not intelligible in itself. Its economy, culture and politics can only be understood in the context of the region it serves. Singapore is only one node in a dense network of many nodes. Whether the Singapore node grows or shrinks depends on the health of the network and our ability to link up with other nodes and add value. Our diversity is therefore a great strength.

He abandoned the nanotechnology metaphor fairly quickly to talk about diversity, independence, and military preparedness,

Diversity is, however, also our vulnerability. Every channel which connects us to the outside world also brings infection. Maintaining Singapore’s integrity and security is therefore a continuing challenge. Two conditions have to be met for a city-state to be independent.

First, its foreign policy has to be nimble to adjust to a shifting external balance of power. Second, the citizenry must be united in its common defense against external subversion and aggression. The external and internal equations have to be solved simultaneously. Only when Singaporeans feel secure about their own place at home can they turn outwards and do big things together. I spent 16 years as a soldier, first in the Army, then the Air Force and, finally, in the Joint Staff. The Singapore Armed Forces is a well-equipped and well-trained militia. Its fighting ability is completely dependent on the unity of diverse Singaporeans and their commitment to a common, righteous cause. By being prepared for war, we are more likely to have peace. It is better not to be put to the test.

If we can maintain peace in Asia for another 10 to 20 years, the region will be transformed beyond recognition and become a powerhouse of the global economy. While trials of strength are inevitable, Sino-U.S. relations are unlikely to deteriorate too badly. Even when China’s economy overtakes that of the U.S. in size, the U.S. will remain the dominant military and political power in the world for decades to come. American popular culture has already taken over the world.

Unlike the U.S., China is not a missionary power. So long as it is able to maintain its own political and cultural universe within, China has no ambition to compete with the U.S. for global supremacy without. If China is also a missionary power, like the former Soviet Union, another hot or cold war is inevitable. Happily, China is not and a titanic clash between the U.S. and China is not inevitable.

Between China and India, they are more likely to cooperate than to fight. Except for a minor border war in 1962, which has been largely forgotten in China, the long history of contact between them has been peaceful. Each recognizes the other as an ancient people.

Yeo provides a very interesting perspective, that of an insider intimately involved in Singapore’s evolution as a city-state.  I don’t entirely agree with his analysis about China. While they may not have the ‘missioinary’ society he sees in the US, China has been expansionist in the past and are currently busy absorbing Tibet.

You can find out more about George Yeo Yong-Boon here. As I think the Huffington Post is sufficiently well known that a description is unnecessary, I don’t think the same can said of the Berggruen Institute, so here goes. From the Berggruen Institute home page,

The Berggruen Institute is dedicated to the design and implementation of new ideas of good governance — drawing from practices in both East and West — that can be brought to bear on the common challenges of globalization in the 21st century.

We are an independent, non-partisan “think and action tank” that engages cutting edge entrepreneurs, global thinkers and political leaders from around the world as key participants in our projects.

The great transition of our time is from American-led globalization 1.0 to the interdependence of plural identities that characterizes globalization 2.0 as the dominance of the West recedes with the rise of the rest. A political and cultural awakening, amplified by social media, is part and parcel of this shift, and good governance must respond by devolving power and involving citizens more meaningfully in governing their communities. At the same time, we believe that accountable institutions must be created that can competently manage the global links of interdependence.

In another life, I was quite interested in diversity and viewpoints that contrast with my own from a cultural perspective. This foray, given the essay title, was a surprise and a delightful one at that.