Editor’s note:Tienchi Martin-Liao ( Independent Chinese PEN Center) has submitted this paper on the 51 International PEN Meeting in Bled, April 2019
Our world is facing various of challenges: the unilateralism of the USA, the threat of the climate change or collapse, the expansion of the raising power of the totalitarian China, the terrorism, the migration waves, the armament race, the energy shortage, the cyber war etc. Among all the threats, the last one — the cyber war is most unpredictable and no one, neither the politicians, the scientists, nor the philosophers could tell which direction our world is heading to, not to mention to surmise what the cyber-leviathan is leading us to, to a paradise or an apocalyptical hell.
The stunning development in the electronic industry has left many people behind. Every year, every month, declare the big companies of their new discoveries and introduce the new products to the world. My four years old laptop is now almost an oldie. My new 4 G mobile phone will soon be over run by the 5 G model, which supposes to target high data rate, reduce latency, energy saving and have more capacity. Self-driving car is not a future vision anymore. It is already tested in the USA, in Switzerland, Hungary and Singapore. In China, the government offered the German carmakers Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW to test their autonomous vehicles in cities with millions of population and dense traffic like Wuxi, Beijing and Shanghai, while these companies promised to use Chinese mapping and data providers. The huge car market in China attract the business world like magnet, all the big companies want to gain the foothold first and to beat other competitors.
The atheist and nihilistic philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche declared in his The Gay Science –“God is Dead”, this becomes one of the most deafening statements in the western philosophy. The sentence confused many people, yet when we continue to read the following words, it will help us to understand him better:
“God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it? ”
In the aftermath of the Enlightenment, the Europeans woke up and found out that they did not need God as the source for all ethic, value or order in the society or even in the universe. Philosophy and science could instead managing that for the human beings. That was the background why Nietzsche spoke out these awakening words.
Now, 137 years later, after Nietzsche’s “declaration”, another man delivered a similar thoughts. In his book Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, the Israeli best-seller author Yuval Noah Harari has premised that, in the future, the humankind will probably overcome all the calamities such as epidemic, hunger as well as war and reach out to immortality and god-similar power. This venturous predication is based on his belief of the immense power of the big data, the artificial intelligence, the biotechnology which could create a sort of new species — half-man, half-robot, the longevity of humankind would also extended to three-digit. It is not evolution, but revolution. Does this 42 years old ingenious historian believe his own future paradoxical paradise images? Of course not, he does not even want the readers follow his prognoses, he just want to shake the world and warn us about the unknown world of the data and AI for the years to come.
In 1997 when IBM’s software Deep Blue beat the world chess champion Garry Kasparov, it was a sensation. In the following decades, the British artificial intelligence company DeepMind Technologies has developed many video games, such as the mathematical model of computation—“Turing machine” to stimulate the abstract and logical thinking. The company has also created the “Alpha Go” program, which defeated the world number one Go player Lee Sedol in 2016. The play between AI machine and the world greatest master in Go has attracted over 200 million people worldwide to watch. After winning more Go plays, AlphaGo was awarded an honorary 9-dan by the Korea Baduk Association as well as awarded professional 9-dan by the Chinese Weiqi Association. AlphaGo has a self-learning process, after beaten the world top players, including the Chinese 9-dan master Ke Jie in 2017, AlphaGo retired. DeepMind also disbanded the team that worked on the game. It devoted the AI to other areas, such as medical research.
The breathtaking development in the cyber world is challenging our perception of the theory of evolution, religion and philosophy. From Nietzsche to AlphaGo, the human beings are digging and searching the secret of our universe, to find more resources. The curiosity and profit thinking are boundless, they generate the creativity and wake up our mind and intelligence. In facing the high speed changing, many of us writers are missing the orientation and start to doubt the meaning and power of our WORDs.
What if an “AplaWord” program will be created and it can compose the most beautiful, heavenly poems, fantastic essays, drawing an enchanting labyrinth to lure us to put down our pens? I do not know the answer.