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Humanistic Machines

By Jennifer Bourne, PhD, Associate Director, Berggruen Fellowships Liaison to Berggruen China Center

The Berggruen Institute's China Center hosts a conference on humanistic machines

On December 27, 2017 the Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences (IHSS) at Peking University and the Berggruen Institute’s China Center hosted Chen Xiaoping from the University of Science and Technology of China and Zhao Tingyang from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) for a conference on "Humanistic Machines, Silicon-based Humans" at Peking University.
 
Yang Hongbo, Associate Director of the Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences, Peking University

As the "father" of Jia Jia, a Chinese humanoid robot, Chen Xiaoping and his team have been dedicated to integrating robotics and service industries with the ultimate goal of introducing robots into Chinese households. 
Song Bing, Director of the China Center, Berggruen Institute

Chen delivered a keynote lecture on the scientific and humanistic challenges of artificial intelligence and explained how A.I. would impact humanity and society.
Chen Xiaoping, Professor of the University of Science and Technology of China, and "father" of Jia Jia, a Chinese humanoid robot

Zhao Tingyang, whose books include A Possible World of All-Under-Heaven System and First Philosophy: From Cogito to Facio, responded to Chen’s keynote and raised an important question for artificial intelligence researchers, namely: Do human beings need artificial intelligence to work for us or to think for us? Zhao reiterated that artificial intelligence is more than a technical problem and that it would present both ethical dilemmas and a legal challenges in the future.
Zhao Tingyang, Researcher of the CASS Institute of Philosophy

Zhao also pointed out that artificial intelligence could provide the welfare necessary for human life in the future but at the possible cost of interpersonal relationships. Additionally, he emphasized that the most dangerous threat of artificial intelligence is that it can be weaponized, needing new boundaries and a possible world-wide agreement.Therefore, Zhao proposed a new global political system, called in Chinese theory the “Tianxia System”, where global power holds high-risk actions in check.
Daniel Bell (left), Professor of the Schwarzman College, Tsinghua University, and Dean of the School of Political Science and Public Administration, Shandong University; Qiu Feng (right), Professor of the Advanced Institute of Confucian Studies, Shandong University

This type of intellectual dialogue between scientists and philosophers on new technology and ethics is rare in China, reflecting the Berggruen Institute's intention and effort to promote in-depth communication of cutting-edge technology and humanistic concern. Dialogue like this is necessary to promote interdisciplinary research between natural sciences and humanities and their shared goal of solving major theoretical and practical problems.

Front from left to right: Yao Xinzhong, Song Bing, Chen Xiaoping, Zhao Tingyang, Liu Xiaoli. Back from left to right: Qiu Feng, Liang Zheng, Zhou Beihai, Li Zhenzhen, Peter Hershock, Li Shengming, Daniel Bell, Liu Dele.

More than 40 people attended the conference and had extensive discussions, including Qiu Feng, Professor of the Advanced Institute of Confucian Studies, Shandong University; Yao Xinzhong, Professor of the School of Philosophy, Renmin University of China; Liu Xiaoli, Professor of the School of Philosophy, Renmin University of China; Zhou Beihai, Director of the Logic Science Teaching and Research Office, the Department of Philosophy, Peking University; Daniel Bell, Professor ofthe SchwarzmanCollege, Tsinghua University, and Dean of the School of Political Science and Public Administration, Shandong University; Li Zhenzhen, Researcher of the Institute of Science and Development, Chinese Academy of Sciences; Gan Chunsong, Professor of the Department of Philosophy, Peking University; and Zhang Xiaorong, Expert Consultant of the Tencent Research Institute; as well as several entrepreneurs, investors and media professionals.