Humanity+ @Beijing on July 27th is a unique opportunity to be there for the advent of transhumanist culture moving into big China! It will be very interesting to see how China will influence the course of transhuman oriented technologies – my guess is that China as it flexes it’s economic muscles, it will have a large impact.
The groundwork for a Beijing transhumanist conference has been geting laid for quite some time….
In 2007 I was living in Washington DC, doing AGI research and working on various AI consulting projects, for both private companies and government agencies. My work was fairly international – many of my projects involved me outsourcing software development to a team I’d grown in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. But I became increasingly curious about what was happening in Asia. I knew China was experiencing massive growth, and other economies like South Korea and Singapore were doing very well also. And all these places were leaders in one or another advanced technology.
I began doing consulting on language processing software for a customer in Tokyo; I gave some talks in Korea, at Samsung and at Seoul National University; I visited my friend Hugo de Garis at Wuhan University, and then at Xiamen University when he changed jobs. I also began visiting Hong Kong, where I got to know Gino Yu, a professor at Hong Kong Poly U, and some of Gino’s friends such as the serial entrepreneur Doug Glen.
Fast forward a few years – in 2010 and early 2011 I found myself spending an increasing amount of time in Hong Kong, and in late 2011 I relocated here. I’m typing these words now from my current place of residence in a rural Hong Kong village, nestled between the bay and a huge expanse of mountainous parkland, yet only 30 minutes drive from the hedge fund I co-founded here in 2011 (Aidyia Limited), and the OpenCog AI/robotics project that Gino leads and I advise on. Shortly after moving here, in November 2011 Gino, Kelly Larson and I organized Humanity+@Hong Kong, the first transhumanist conference in Asia.
Two years later, I’ve decided it’s time for another one – this time, right in the belly of the beast: Humanity+ @ Beijing, at the Jin Tai Art Museum on Saturday July 27, 2013.
What have I learned living in Asia the last year and a half, and visiting here frequently for several years before that? More than I’m going to try to pack into this article. But one suspicion I had before venturing Eastward has been amply validated: There is a lot going on here! A lot of technology development, a lot of fundamental science, a lot of radical innovation.
Yes, Silicon Valley continues to lead the world in social media. But consumer electronic manufacturing is done better and at greater scale in Guangdong Province (in mainland China right across the border from Hong Kong) than anywhere else. The US excels in military robots, but for research-grade humanoid robots, Japan and Korea are the ones to beat. For large-scale commercial production of inexpensive robots, Hong Kong and Guangdong are essentially all there is. Alternative energy research is more avidly and massively pursued in China than anywhere else. Stem cell research and other cutting edge biotech proceed here without the overhang of Luddite “moral issue” based regulation.
There is a huge amount of interesting development happening here – but many things are done differently than in the West, which makes the situation difficult to interpret or get used to, for the American or European mind. For one thing, in the US we are accustomed to development being driven by commercial interests and visions. But in Asia technology development is more government-driven, which has pluses and minuses. One plus is that here things often go according to 5, 10 or even 30 year plans. This is a big contrast to the focus on quarterly profits that dominates the American scene. On the other hand, where advance science and tech are concerned, planning things far in advance is risky. In what areas will the advance-planning approach beat out the short term profit driven approach? Time will tell….
It’s with all this in mind that I teamed up with Humanity+ Board members Adam Ford (based in Australia) and Amy Li (mainland Chinese, but currently based in the US) to organize the first-ever transhumanist conference in mainland China: Humanity+ @ Beijing. We have a top-notch speaker line-up, with both Western and Chinese faces, covering the gamut of topics from AI and robotics to transhumanist art and design and the future of publishing.
Further, the conference is close in space and time to the Third AGI Summer School, the Artificial General Intelligence 2013 conference, and the 2013 International Joint Conference on AI. So a significant spillover of both Chinese and Western AI researchers into Humanity+ @ Beijing is expected – it should be an interesting mix.
If you plan to be in China in late July, please put Humanity+ @ Beijing on your schedule.
And if you don’t plan to be in China in late July – well, maybe you should! There will be nowhere better to learn about the future of AGI and other technologies, and mix with like futurist minds.
But if you really can’t make it, don’t worry – there will be video proceedings after the fact as usual.
Since its early days as the World Transhumanist Association, Humanity+ has been a robustly international organization. We are pleased to see this tradition continue with conferences like Humanity+ @ Beijing.
While many things about the future are uncertain, we are fairly confident that the future’s going to come out better if it’s openly and explicitly created by the cooperation of people of all sorts from all around the world. Gathering diverse international groups in futurist conferences all around the world, is one way to help work toward this goal.