​Sci-fi author explores humanity's future with AI in new book series

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, October 17, 2023
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As the world stands on the precipice of the AI revolution, Chinese sci-fi luminary Xiao Xinghan offers a visionary perspective with his latest opus, "The Song of Human and AI." This expansive tetralogy delves into humanity's intricate future alongside robots.

Writer Xiao Xinghan speaks at the book launch event of his new book series "The Song of Human and AI" in Chengdu, Sichuan province, Oct. 15, 2023. [Photo courtesy of Sichuan Publishing House of Science & Technology]

The timing couldn't be more apt. As the 81st World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) is set to commence in Chengdu, Xiao's work primes the conversation for deep reflections on AI and its role in shaping our collective future.

Xiao shared with China.org.cn that he conceived this epic project over a decade ago, beginning his writing in 2011. He had immersed himself in countless sci-fi works about robots, finding the common depictions of them as either malevolent or benevolent beings overly simplistic.

"In my view, if robots were to attain intelligence and self-awareness, they would undoubtedly be markedly different from humans, leading humans to experience the most significant survival pressure from these robots. Consequently, I chose 'The Song of Human and AI' as the title of my work. Employing a historical narrative approach, I endeavored to depict the enduring struggles between human and robot civilizations over a century, aiming to find a way for them to coexist without mutual annihilation," he said.

"The Song of Human and AI" is a tetralogy consisting of four volumes: "Artificial Artemis," "Battle Song," "Black and White Heaven," and "End of the Rainbow." This series explores the third war between human and robot civilizations, spanning from 2120 to 2125. The backdrop of the story shifts from Venus, Mars, and Jupiter to the Moon, the Sun, and an Earth that has reverted to medieval times. The tetralogy reaches its climax with the gradual resolution of the war, signaling a shift from discord to harmony between human and robot civilizations. Xiao's characters stand out, and his storytelling is both vivid and diverse, multifaceted, punctuated with positive philosophical reflections, according to Dong Renwei, China's sci-fi mogul and co-founder of the Chinese Nebula Awards.

A picture shows the volumes of the "The Song of Human and AI" tetralogy. [Photo courtesy of Sichuan Publishing House of Science & Technology]

Regarding the currently hotly debated AI technologies, the award-winning writer commented that while they might be somewhat overhyped, there remains a vast chasm between the present state of AI and the AI he envisions. "At their core, these large language models are merely search engines that aggregate existing human-generated texts; they don't embody genuine innovation. In 'The Song of Human and AI,' AI has formulated the 'Ultimate Theory,' a concept beyond the grasp of human comprehension. That represents true 'intelligence,'" he said.

On Sunday, the Sichuan Publishing House of Science & Technology organized a book launch at the Tianfu Book Fair. They welcomed several of Xiao's contemporaries, such as sci-fi authors Dong Renwei, Lu Yang, and Peng Liurong, to express their opinions on the new series and offer insights about AI.

Dong noted that with the rapid advancement of technology, AI's emergence has profoundly altered our way of life. However, this progress also introduces its own risks. As a result, humanity needs to incorporate AI, integrating it into the forthcoming, augmented superhuman society. On the other hand, Lu Yang presented an alternate viewpoint, proposing that humans might merely be a foundational program for AI's growth. Although the universe might lean towards favoring silicon-based lifeforms, humans will always discern our distinct values and purpose for existence.

Writer Xiao Xinghan (center left) poses with guests at the book launch event for his new series "The Song of Human and AI" in Chengdu, Sichuan province, Oct. 15, 2023. [Photo courtesy of Sichuan Publishing House of Science & Technology]

"In outstanding sci-fi works, we find a stimulus for human imagination, creativity and introspection," Xiao Yi, deputy editor-in-chief of the Sichuan Publishing House of Science & Technology said during her speech, "With his exceptional flair for sci-fi creativity, storytelling and literary depth, Xiao Xinghan guides readers through this series. He invites them to appreciate the beauty of science and the evolving future and to contemplate deeply the relationship between humans and AI."

The book launch is one of the preliminary activities leading up to the Chengdu Worldcon, which begins Oct. 18. "This is a significant event for both Chinese sci-fi and global sci-fi. Countless sci-fi enthusiasts, regardless of nationality or race, gather here for exchange and celebration, naturally gravitating towards each other. Years from now, I believe the Chengdu Worldcon will be remembered as the dawn of a golden age for global science fiction," stated Xiao Xinghan, emphasizing its importance.

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