AI 2041: Ten Visions for Our Future is an uncommon e book. Every chapter consists of a brief story, penned by science fiction author Chen Qiufan, and a associated evaluation piece from Kai-Fu Lee, CEO of Sinovation Ventures and writer of the nonfiction bestseller AI Superpowers. Chen, who is also founding father of Thema Mundi, a content material growth studio, spoke with Quick Firm on the eve of the discharge of AI 2041 about his collaboration with Lee, his personal experiences with synthetic intelligence, and what machine studying will imply for artists and writers. This interview was edited for size and readability.
Quick Firm: How did this mission come about?
Chen Qiufan: I used to work for Google [from] 2008 to 2013, overlapping with Kai-Fu. Two years in the past, he reached out to me. He had this sensible thought of writing a e book, mixing the style of science fiction with technical evaluation, which sounded unbelievable to me as a result of I had the identical thought years in the past.
Earlier than you began collaborating, did you or Kai-Fu Lee have a mannequin in thoughts? Had been there different works that you simply thought could be good fashions for what you wished to do?
No, that is one thing brand-new, as a result of it’s a mixture of science fiction and nonfiction. So we needed to construct the whole lot from scratch. It took us fairly some time to determine how you can do it correctly. The primary half of the 12 months was fairly painful in my view, as a result of I’m used to writing on my own, like enjoying solo. So it’s completely totally different, like enjoying in a band. We needed to [go] backwards and forwards to, to nail down the whole lot. That took some time, however I’m fairly completely satisfied and excited.
Are you able to speak slightly bit extra about that course of?
Not lengthy after we began writing the e book the pandemic [emerged], so we needed to work remotely. I’m primarily based in Shanghai and he normally works in Beijing or Taipei. We communicated by Zoom and convention calls. And earlier than that, we had numerous conversations with scientists and entrepreneurs, students, researchers on synthetic intelligence. Then we had [to figure out] the proper order to place all this totally different expertise, the place to go deeper and how you can bundle totally different expertise factors and into [each] story. After we discovered the suitable method [to tell] the story, and I began to write down the draft after which Dr. Lee gave me some suggestions and after a number of rounds of debate and we finalized the story and handed it to the translator and the editor.
Kai-Fu Lee has a usually optimistic view about synthetic intelligence. But a few of your tales spotlight a number of the darker elements of AI. How did you reconcile your his optimism together with your creative need to color a extra rounded image?
That was the largest argument on the very starting as a result of in science fiction we inform numerous tales about AI within the dystopian method, like The Terminator, 2001: A House Odyssey, or Ex Machina. However on this e book, Dr. Lee and I agreed on sure ranges that we’d attempt to construct up this constructive and shiny way forward for AI and the way it may empower the person and societies. The issue is that if the whole lot has a contented ending there’s no dramatic battle, there’s no storytelling. So we had to determine how you can mix this sort of constructive [viewpoint] along with some character growth. And likewise we put [AI] into the context of a particular tradition, like in India, Nigeria, China, Japan, America, Australia, and the Center East. That form of mixture—bringing out some nuance and authenticity of how the expertise would possibly work together with the locality of the folks and the tradition—that’s how we discovered the place the drama got here from.
One in all your quick tales, “State of Trance,” included passages that had been generated by AI. The place did the concept come from?
Again in 2017 I used to be writing a set referred to as The Algorithms for Life, which is six quick tales concerning the relationship between people and AI. I used to be pondering that I may leverage AI as a device on this e book. So I requested my ex-Google colleague, Mr. Wang Yonggang, [head of Sinovation Ventures AI Institute]. He works with Dr. Lee, and he’s additionally a science fiction fan. He stated, “okay, I’ll allow you to to construct this algorithm.” Again then it was simply LSTM (lengthy short-term reminiscence) and CNN (convolutional neural community), quite simple stuff. We constructed up this mannequin and fed it with all my writing supplies to by some means mimic my model of writing, however I’ve to say, it made no sense in any respect. Final 12 months we upgraded to GPT-2 [an AI tool created by OpenAI[. It’s a more advanced algorithm with much more powerful computation power. We fed it with tons of gigabytes of data [from] throughout the web so it turned smarter and it could write smoother and even generate one thing outdoors of your expectations. Proper now I’m utilizing it numerous the time once I have to provide you with some concepts that aren’t from me, however are from me on sure ranges. So I take advantage of it as a device, as a assistant to assist me to provide you with some contemporary concepts.
What would you say to different artists, novelists, musicians, or visible artists who’re inherently skeptical of AI, and the way would you reply to individuals who say, “properly, I’m afraid that AI will take away creative or inventive jobs”?
AI 2041 truly faucets into slightly little bit of this, how artists would possibly [evolve] sooner or later with the assistance of AI. We now have expertise such as pure language processing and AR (augmented actuality), VR (digital actuality), and XR (prolonged actuality). We will construct super-realistic avatars, which might actually recreate an actual actor or actress on some stage. Sooner or later, we would use AI to help or even change actual writers, musicians, and actors—common performers. When you attain on the highest of the pyramid, [you’re] irreplaceable due to your creativeness, your experiences in life, your notion of the world. Your worth system isn’t replaceable by the machine. So I believe a very powerful factor for all these artists right this moment is actually to search out your individual distinctive voice. Don’t copy anybody else. You need to be your self. That’s the one method you possibly can survive sooner or later with all this super-powerful AI robots. How we’re going to outlive is with our imaginations.
Had been you already writing science fiction whilst you had been at Google?
I used to be a science fiction fan since I used to be a child. I watched Star Wars and Star Trek once I was round 7, 8, or 9. In order that’s the age I begin to learn and write science fiction. I used to be an novice once I labored at Google, so I used my 20% time on my writing.
Would you think about this sort of collaboration once more?
To be sincere that is essentially the most troublesome e book I’ve ever written, so I’d have to consider it very rigorously, as a result of not all collaborators are like Dr. Lee, who has such a terrific expertise and experience on a particular area. He’s additionally a inventive individual as properly. Don’t be [fooled] by his super-professional businessman outlook! He’s received numerous nice concepts.
What’s an instance of considered one of his concepts that you simply included into your a part of the e book?
One in all my favorites tales known as “Contactless Love.” It [takes place] in Shanghai and it’s concerning the pandemic. It’s concerning the lady who has PTSD lengthy after the pandemic. In 2041 she remains to be so afraid of stepping out of her residence to search out her lover who flew internationally to São Paulo. At first [of writing] I assumed, “okay, let’s simply have a contented ending, have the lady meet the boy.” Dr. Kai-Fu Lee stated, “why don’t we make it a sport that was arrange by the boy to information this lady out of her traumatized standing, like a gamification of remedy to information this lady towards her lover.” I assumed that was a completely sensible thought, and I embedded it in my storytelling. And I believe that it’s one of the crucial lovely tales I’ve ever written.