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 »

Mandarin Leader Award | 名都领袖奖

December 19, 2016 § Leave a comment

mandarin-leader-honoreesAs the year comes to a close, I am honored to share with you that I have been featured as a 2016 Mandarin Leader, an annual award recognizing excellence in North America’s Chinese community! Inaugurated in 2015, Mandarin Leader spotlights exceptionally creative or philanthropic individuals, who, regardless of industry, have “created something out of nothing, taken risks, and exhibited characteristics associated with leadership”.

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I am humbled to be in the company of a cadre of outstanding Chinese leaders in North America making substantive contributions across academia, the arts, business, science, medicine, media, government, non-profits and entertainment. Many thanks to Mandarin Leader organizers for the honor, and for their initiative conducting such a meaningful award showcasing creativity and altruism in the Chinese community!

旧岁将尽之际,很高兴地和您分享一个消息:本人被誉为2016年度“名都领袖”!这一奖项为北美华人社群中的卓越成就者而设, 突出表彰具有创意或致力于公益的个人及组织,“不论职业为何,这些领袖们在各个行业从无到有创造出今日的成果,他们有冒险家精神,还有领导者的特质”。

这些北美杰出华人在学术、商务、艺术、政府、媒体、科学、医学和娱乐等行业有着显著的成就。被列为其中一员,我深感荣幸。感谢“名都领袖”赋予的盛誉,也感谢其组织者引领这一如此有意义的嘉奖, 以弘扬创意与公益。

 

The “Big Picture” Wrapup; and a New Chapter for Essinova

September 10, 2016 § Leave a comment

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Started as a review of Q1 2016 news reflecting the technology, culture and economics confluence, the Big Picture series has extended well into Q3. In the meantime, world affairs have been taking troubling turns, with one shocking news story after another. The unstoppable Fourth Industrial Revolution, itself complex with mixed implications, is now juxtaposed on top of precarious geopolitical and social dynamics potentially affecting the world at large.

A recent article on these themes particularly resonated with me: “History tells us what may happen next with Brexit & Trump,” by Tobias Stone, entrepreneur, investor, writer and innovation scholar. As with Eric Weiner’s time travel back to Athens for historical insights in The Geography of Genius, Stone’s background in archeology affords him a macroscopic view onto anthropological patterns which enables a more insightful prediction of where the world might be headed. “We humans have a habit of going into phases of mass destruction, generally self imposed to some extent or another,” he says, “and another such stupid season might very well be ahead of us.”

Historical patterns have sobering inevitability, and the bad case scenario could sadly become reality. With hell in Syria, mess in Europe, violence and “Trumpism” in the U.S., terrorists everywhere, and WWIII not inconceivable, let alone ongoing challenges such as climate woes and health crises, it may seem art and creativity are too frivolous or low-priority for solvers of “serious” problems.

Here again, though, history provides vision. As Graham Greene poignantly remarked about Italy, “for 30 years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance.” The Florence as we know it emerged from Black Death that devastated Europe. As one of many paradoxes of the human condition (and as my friend, cultural historian Piero Scaruffi would point out), creativity often spikes in periods of great instability. « Read the rest of this entry »

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