Sex Robots, an African Heroine, and the Uncanny Valley (Part 1)

May 26, 2017 § Leave a comment

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When I first came across African artist Milumbe Haimbe a couple years ago, thanks to introduction by Cissie Swig, beloved San Francisco art benefactor, her graphic novel “The Revolutionist” was clearly a science fiction. The story is set in the near future on a satellite colony off the orbit of mainland Earth, dominated by a corporation. Social conformity is subliminally reinforced, the economy is purely corporate-driven, exploitation of human by human thrives and the insatiable appetite for sex robots threatens to tip the already delicate social balance. This gives rise to the resistance called Army for the Restoration of Womanhood. The protagonist Ananiya is a special agent in its Covert Operations Division when news spreads that the Corporation is developing a prototype robot that is sophisticated and sexually attractive enough to replace human women altogether. Before long the resistance galvanizes into a full-blown revolution, and Ananiya thrives to become the most unlikely hero on a mission to destruct the prototype before it enters the mass market.

If the story of robots replacing real women sounds far-fetched, I am here to report that Abyss Creations, manufacturer of RealDoll, life-size sex dolls designed to recreate the appearance, texture, and weight of the human form, has launched Harmony AI, bringing artificial intelligence to the dolls the company has been making for 20+ years.  “Harmony smiles, blinks and frowns. She can hold a conversation, tell jokes and quote Shakespeare. She’ll remember your birthday, […], what you like to eat, and the names of your brothers and sisters. She can hold a conversation about music, movies and books. And of course, Harmony will have sex with you whenever you want”, as Jenny Kleeman reports for The Guardian after visiting the factory and interacting with the prototype.   « Read the rest of this entry »

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The Big Picture, V – China’s Creative Economy, Beijing’s Creative Spaces and a Robot Monk

August 19, 2016 § Leave a comment

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China’s Creative Economy, through the lens of creative spaces, is the subject of the last installment of our Big Picture series.

It was a few days before New Year 2016 when I first heard the word 融合业态 (Rong He Ye Tai)- fusion or convergence of industries – as a latest trend in China. The son of my father’s friend visited San Francisco with his newly-wed wife during the holidays, and I entertained them. I was trying to explain what kind of work I do (or am doing in recent years), and instead of an awkward silence which I thought would ensue, he was unexpectedly turned on by my “explorations between art and science, culture and technology, nature and lifestyle”, a concept I had thought would be too esoteric, convoluted or impractical for anyone in China to care. “融合业态!” He declared, “It’s the ‘in’ thing now!” He went on to tell me how high tech parks are passé now, replaced by creativity and design parks, and cultural incubators; how a real estate or tourist project would get funding more easily, if it had a cultural theme. He urged me to collaborate with the association he was working for, affiliated with the Ministry of Culture.

Sensing my skepticism, he handed me a document a few days later, on red letterhead. It is the State Council 2014 [10] Gazette, on promoting “the integration of cultural creativity and design services with the development of industries”.

I was blown away.  The central government is recognizing that the culture industry has the desirable attributes of “high knowledge intensity, high value-add, low energy consumption, and low pollution”, as the country’s economy goes through much-needed transformation.  It is encouraging the “deep integration” of culture industries with ‘real’ economy industries such as technology, manufacturing, real estate and retail, as new sources of growth, competitiveness, employment, consumption diversity and higher standard of living. It knows that without culture leading the way, there would be no “Created in China”.

A couple of trips to China in the ensuing months gave me the opportunity to investigate and see with my own eyes. Below I share with you several creative spaces I visited as part of this reconnaissance. It is not a conclusive report on whether the government’s policy is working – much more time and resources would be needed for that – but rather an observation of the physical (and in some cases, business and cultural) environments that creativity is being pursued, along with anecdotal stories. They are not necessarily born out of the Directive – some of these places predated the Gazette by a decade; and the people I spoke to at these places did not necessarily know anything about the policy; but in a uniquely characteristic Chinese way, the Visible Hand of the Government and the Invisible Hand of the Market are certainly at interplay, with the former sometimes directing the latter, while other times shrewdly taking clues and multiplying the latter.
« Read the rest of this entry »

The Big Picture, II – Designers of the Future, Poets for Your Bots, and Anti-disciplinarians: the Emerging World as Seen in New Job Descriptions

April 16, 2016 § Leave a comment

We cannot foresee at this point which scenario is likely to emerge, and history suggests that the outcome is likely to be some combination of the two. However, I am convinced of one thing—that in the future, talent, more than capital, will represent the critical factor of production.”
– Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum

Well, capital still seems pretty darn critical from where I stand, but that’s beside the point for this installment of our Big Picture series.  Continuing from “Part I, The Fourth Industrial Revolution” last week, this issue is a more concrete exploration of the future depicted by Dr. Schwab, through a particular lens – new talents and job skill demands emerging or anticipated at the leading edge of the tech industry.


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The Most Important Design Jobs Of The Future, from Fast Company, CO.DESIGN, by Suzanne Labarre « Read the rest of this entry »

The Big Picture, I – The Fourth Industrial Revolution

April 4, 2016 § 3 Comments

The Fourth Industrial Revolution: what it means, how to respond

By Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum, for Davos 2016

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Excerpts:

“We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. In its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before. … « Read the rest of this entry »

First Quarter in Review: The Big Picture, Ahead and Around

April 4, 2016 § 4 Comments

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Unlike most of my posts, this issue (or this series, in multiple issues) does not feature specific artworks (which, by the way, many of you have told me to be beautiful–thank you!). Instead, I will share with you news, events and readings I came across in the first quarter of 2016, which collectively form a “big picture” context, helping to demonstrate that Essinova’s exploration into the arts is not just about beauty, although that itself is a worthy cause.

Top 10 skills 2020It is a big picture of the next industrial revolution and the future that mankind is entering, in which art and culture will be of fundamental importance not only to the human race as a whole but also to private industry. Philosophically speaking, art (with feelings) might become one of our last bastions of human privilege as machines can replace us in pretty much everything else. On a more practical level, culture and humanities, alongside science and technology, will become part of the very fabric of tomorrow’s businesses, rather than an afterthought marketing flair. This is necessitated by the new demands of solution design, consumer experience and talent development. « Read the rest of this entry »

LAST Festival Art Expo Highlights

October 28, 2015 § Leave a comment

The 3rd installation of the L.A.S.T. Festival, organized by Thymos Foundation and originally conceived by Piero Scaruffi, took place over the weekend of October 16 to 18, at Stanford University.  The L.A.S.T. Festival celebrates the confluence of art with the multiplicity of new media technologies and nascent sciences that are transforming sociality and experience in the 21st century.

The Festival featured four programs:

  • Interactive multimedia art installations that break the “Do not touch!” taboo of the traditional museum and are meant to let people experience something they never experienced before
  • Inspirational talks by luminaries on cutting-edge technology and science, including Artificial Intelligence, Synthetic Biology, Nanotech, Space Exploration, and Neuroscience
  • Live performances
  • Interactive workshops or talks by artists

Click to watch video recordings of the talks.

And here are some photos of the art installations.  Click on the images to learn more about each installation. « Read the rest of this entry »

A Birthday Dreamscape | Epilogue: The Comfort of My Cake

July 10, 2015 § 2 Comments

Act I –  Voyage to the edge of the universe

Act II – Quantified-self, lifelogs and someone else’ mindscape

Act III – The hybrid Here and Now


Epilogue – The comfort of my cake

July.  I have not found answers.

IMG_2586 cropped « Read the rest of this entry »

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