ChinAI #33: China's Preeminent Science Fiction Writer, Liu Cixin: A Dialogue on AI

Welcome to the ChinAI Newsletter!

These are Jeff Ding's weekly translations of writings on AI policy and strategy from Chinese thinkers. I'll also include general links to all things at the intersection of China and AI. Please share the subscription link if you think this stuff is cool. Here's an archive of all past issues. *Subscribers are welcome to share excerpts from these translations as long as my original translation is cited.

I'm a grad student at the University of Oxford where I'm the China lead for the Governance of AI Program, Future of Humanity Institute.

A Conversation with Liu Cixin: Is AI a New Human Race?

This week we take a step back and think about where this is all going. China’s preeminent science fiction writer, Liu Cixin sat down with Pingwest (a Chinese media site that focuses on tech and online culture) founder, Luo Yihang, and they have a sprawling, at times rambling and disjointed, but consistently interesting dialogue. The event that inspires this conversation back in April of this year was the announcement of an Alibaba-Tsinghua University strategic partnership to set up a human-computer interaction laboratory. Things you can track down in the full translation:

  • Whether AI will surpass humans in terms of emotions, art, and culture

  • How John Searle’s “Chinese Room” thought experiment applies to machine translation and could apply to machine emotions

  • Chinese children growing up with TmallGenie, just like English-speaking children are growing up with Amazon Echo.

  • The preserving copies of humans and the concept of eternal life

  • Also mentioned: Google’s 72-qubit quantum computer, Kurzweil’s 2045 singularity hypothesis, Maginot lines, Black Mirror, and Shakespeare


This Week's ChinAI Links

Correction to Chinese idiom of the Week: 巧妇难为无米之炊 (qiao3fu4* nan2 wei2 wu2 mi3 zhi1 chui1): even the cleverest housewife can’t cook a meal without rice*. Correction on last week’s idiom of the week — thanks to everyone who flagged this for me.

ChinAI Issue # 17 covered the influence of sci-fi on the discursive milieu that surrounds advanced AI technologies.

Previously, we’ve featured Yiou Intelligence (EO Intelligence) as a think tank/research outfit that’s producing good research on China’s AI industry landscape. Here’s (in Mandarin) another report from them on China’s AI scene, has detailed breakdowns of all the verticals, relationship maps between key companies/investors, and investment trends.

MERICS report on how innovation and IT is shaping the delivery of social services in China.

FHI is launching a new scholarship program for D.Phil students starting at the University of Oxford.

Thank you for reading and engaging.

Shout out to everyone who is commenting on the translations - idea is to build up a community of people interested in this stuff. You can contact me at or on Twitter at @jjding99