SF Prototyping Futurology Congress

SF Prototyping Futurology Congress

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Hirotaka Osawa: SF Prototyping Futurology Congress just started. Science fiction prototyping is a practice of using various stories, fiction, images, and product to envision other possibilities for the present and future using the imagination of science fiction. This practice is now beginning to be adopted by a variety of companies. In Japan, there are a few books on science fiction prototyping, and there is not much research on it in a systematic way, but various practices are taking place here and there. What is SF prototyping all about? It is still unknown. If that's the case, then let's invite those who are actually practicing on researching SF prototyping to a congress of the possibility of SF prototyping.

So, the barrier, the challenges, the future and needs of SF prototyping will be discussed from the whole roundtable discussion. Narrative, art, business, and work. This is the fourth edition of the conference, one SF prototyping, we will be discussing SF prototyping from practice in China and the US. The chairperson for this session is Dohjin Miyamoto, a writer on science fiction and culture, and Yuuki Namba from the Kobe University and studying philosophy and aesthetics. And also me, Hirotaka Osawa, an assistant professor at the University of Tsukuba, I'm studying human-agent interaction.

And, Dr. Miyamoto and Mr. Namba, thank you for joining us today. I believe both of you are participating in the sci-fi prototyping futuristic studies conference from your own research practice. So, what would you like to discuss with our guests today? Yuuki Namba: Nice to meet you. I am Namba Yuuki, I'm a philosopher of arts and philosophy of aesthetics. And I'm so interested in sci-fi prototyping and a sci-fi from the viewpoint of philosophy. So, especially, what is science fiction? Or what is the uniqueness of science fiction? And how the science fiction can affect our lifestyles or our view or worldview? So, I'm studying about science fiction from the philosophy.

And I now work with Osawa-san and Miyamoto-san about sci-fi prototyping. So, I'm very interested and I am very excited to talk with Ruth-san, Wu-san, and Zhang-san. So, yoroshikuonegaishimasu. Hirotaka Osawa: Okay, then, start, Dohjin.

Dohjin Miyamoto: Hi, I'm Dohjin Miyamoto. I'm very interested in Chinese science fiction prototyping and American science fiction prototyping. I would like to know how sci-fi is using each country. So, I'm looking forward to talking with you today.

Thank you. Hirotaka Osawa: Okay. Thank you for your patience, listeners. Now, it's time to call our guest. Okay.

So, Professor Ruth Wylie, Professor Wuyan, and Professor Feng Zhang, nice to meet you. Nice to meet you. Feng Zhang: Nice to meet you.

Hirotaka Osawa: Me too, yeah. Okay. So, Wylie-san, Wuyan-san, Feng Zhang-san, could you introduce yourselves? Yeah. Ruth at first, yeah. Ruth Wylie: Thank you so much for the invitation and organizing this panel, I'm really excited to learn and share with the fellow panelists.

My name is Ruth Wylie, and I am the Assistant Director at the Center for Science and Imagination at Arizona State University. We are a research and outreach center. And our goal is to unite the collective imagination to think about better futures. We'll talk about this more today, but often we do that through the use of narrative in particular science fiction stories, because they can be a great way for people to not only think about possible futures, but really think about the human impact as well.

So, I look forward to the panel and thank you. Hirotaka Osawa: Thank you very much. Yeah. Okay, so Professor Wuyan. Yeah, please. Wuyan: Hello. Good morning. My name is Wuyan, and I'm a science fiction writer, also a researcher, and I teach in the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province.

It is very close to Hong Kong. And we have a lot of project. I will share of them later. Thank you.

Hirotaka Osawa: Thank you very much. So, Professor Zhang. Feng Zhang: Hi, hello, morning. Very happy to join the panel. I'm very excited to share and learn from the guests here.

I'm also working with Professor Wu at the Center for Science and Human Imagination at Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen. We are working on some projects related to science fiction education, science fiction industry, and also science fiction development with the urban development, economic development, and so I'm looking forward to today's panel because I have been looking at this sci-fi prototyping for a long time. So, I want to learn from Ruth and also the panelists today to try to make use of this concept in China more and more. Thank you. Yuuki Namba: Thank you. Hirotaka Osawa: Thank you very much.

So, once all of the guest is very bright, starting studies of science fiction prototyping is academic viewpoints. So, at first, I want to make a question about practice and research for this area. So, I want to start with Professor Wu about the question. So, what kind of research do you do at Science Fiction and Human Imagination Research Center? So, futurology has not been sufficiently studied in Japan. So, yeah, I want to ask about it, sir, yeah. Wuyan: So, I have a PowerPoint to know what kind of things we do in our center.

And I will share that. The Research Center for Science and Human Imagination is a center attached inside the Southern University of Science and Technology. And the main work is to explore imagination, all issues related to imagination. And I will give you some very brief introduction of our historical milestones, and curriculum and teaching, and research, and international exchange, outputs, and social services. And the first is, we built in 2017, December of 2017. At that year, I moved from Beijing to Shenzhen, and work in Shenzhen.

Regularly, I work in Beijing Normal University for many years. I create the sci-fi teaching program at that university, from undergraduate level to graduate level and to doctoral level. But then, I quit. I moved to Shenzhen and to build this center. And we have the virtual lab in both to let people aware of virtual reality, and also we do some research about that. And we have some artistic exhibitions.

This is, we invite aliens to come to our campus and to let the student know we have the center here. And also, we have some conferences. This conference is the first conference to discuss about imagination. So, we attracted academics from different areas of philosophy, psychology, and brain science, and different area to discuss about imagination. And also we discuss about the science fiction, the trend of science fiction. This is a conference on the situation of Chinese literature, and the revolution of science fiction in the era of technology.

And we also have some conferences to discuss with the current issues like this. I don't know how to translate that is a Japanese word, right? It's about the manga and anime. Yeah. The second dimension. Hirotaka Osawa: Yeah. Yeah, two dimensional... Wuyan: Yeah, we discuss about that. And also, from the frontier of science to frontier of science fiction is a panel, we invite scientists and the science fiction writer.

So, you could say that Liu Cixin is here. And science fiction word, the chief editor is here. And in this part are all scientists. So, this is the science fiction writer in my center. And we also have some, you know, discuss how to write science fiction.

And this is a new book release ceremony is by the Luoyang is one of the writer in our center, and we discuss about his new work Offense of the Mars. And the last November, we have the humanity's past and the future is an international forum. We invite different people from different countries. So, probably Ruth know some of them, and you can see the American writers and the Israel and Canada and Italy, and from different countries. Actually Sawyer, Robert J. Sawyer.

Okay, yeah, that is the historical milestones of our center. And then our curriculums and teaching, we have the three kinds of teachings and knowledge, ability and action. In knowledge area, we have science fiction, from fiction to film, science fiction film, science fiction from short story to novel. Zhang Feng right now is teaching the science fiction from short story to novel. Oh, sorry.

And with the ability, we have the imagination and futurology, future studies. And in action, we have science fiction a way of thinking and sci-fi writing. But some of the ways we haven't have but this we already have.

Zhang Feng helped us, that is why I invite him to join us. And we also have some lecturers from different countries and different provinces and from Italy, David Brian, and from Hong Kong is KY Wang, he is also famous researcher in the area. And our research about the imagination is covered brand area because a lot of faculties from other department, they join us. So, we have a very— I think it's like in Arizona or in San Diego. And right now, we have the research "world of trends of science fiction, and the development of a sci-fi industry."

This is executive by Dr. Jiang who is now working in Sichuan. Oh, sorry. And also development of Chinese Science Fiction Databank, and the Virtual World Architecture Center - we have Liu Yang - and Art of the Future, and for me is Psychology and the Brain Science of Imagination because my background is psychology.

And then Oriental Alternative Science Research, Science Fiction and Imagination Teaching Service Center, we have. And more people is working here. And we have international exchange.

This is last year. No, the year before, I visited UC, San Diego. They have a Center for Imagination and the chair of the center, and we also attended the Comic Con and to join the 2001 A Space Odyssey ceremony for 60 years, the ceremony.

This is the show, the 2001. And this professor Faxiang Chen who is also UC but in the riverside, and he visits our university. And to show our plan to study of the solar system.

He is a professor called Davis to do the solar system study. And we have different outputs in different areas. This is the nine cities, and the millions of futures is the exhibition of the biennial of last year. Each two years, it's held in Shenzhen as the same time in Hong Kong. And our exhibition has got the works at this exhibition. It's one output.

And we have another output is the yearbook of science fiction. We evaluated this year's different issues of science fiction, and we put a lot of informations of the year inside this book. So, only this book, you can know what's happened, and nearly the whole short stories and novels in breathing. Each year, we will launch this. And we have science fiction novels, and this is my novel and this is Kiu Yang's novel and this Jiang Feng is added to the year's best, year's best of science fiction of last year. It's just launched, just printed last week, we have just got that.

And we also have outputs to teach science fiction in not university, but the primary and the secondary school. And this is our textbook. This year, we have a textbook, in different level, different grade, we have a primary level, we have junior high and senior high. Right now, we have that. That is the very brief introduction of our center. Thank you.

Hirotaka Osawa: Yeah, thank you very much. Yeah, it's very exciting that so much of science fiction work is happening in China. So, I want to just ask one question. So, yeah, I'm very curious about why Chinese people is now focusing on sci-fi. Is there any kind of triggering event on the internet for how people are interested in science fiction? Is there any specific background? Or is it more on why sci-fi fans is increased in China? Feng Zhang: I think the boom of science fiction in China could be attributed to some factors.

Like you said, there are some triggers, like the publication of three body problem, which got very hot in China since 2011. And also the new movie, right, the Wandering Earth movie got very high box office. And in the middle, Liu Cixin got the Hugo Award. This event, this news was also very popular, very hot in China. So, these are the triggers of the science fiction to the public and to be known to the public. And also we discussed about the background information or the possible reasons behind those events, behind those triggers could be caused— we discussed about it.

We thought about maybe it's because of the scientific and technological developments of China in the recent 10, 20 years. And the science fiction boom is actually corresponding to this very fast development of technology and science in China and the people in China are – because we are more and more experienced, are exposed to the new technology and we feel that it's a science fiction world around us. So, naturally, the interesting science fiction works could be also related to the reality in China. So, that could be a bigger reason why Chinese people are more and more interested in science fiction works.

So, the two sides of the theory, right, we've got two theories to explain the phenomena. Hirotaka Osawa: Thank you so much, Professor Wuyan and Professor Feng Zhang about story for the Chinese interest for science fiction. So, then, I want to start questions for Ruth. Yeah. So, what kinds of research do you do at Science Imagination Center? So, your persistent study, various science fiction workshops.

So, what challenges and barriers have you found? Yeah. Ruth Wylie: Thank you. I said before that I was not going to share some slides. But I was inspired by the presentation before me. So, I'll share a few slides to introduce the work that we're doing, if that's okay.

So, as I mentioned in the introduction, our goal at the center is to ignite the collective imagination for a better future. And one of the methodologies and perhaps, the primary methodology that we do this is through stories, because we believe that stories are the building blocks that we use to make the future. And there are lots of historical examples of this. So, if you look at science fiction stories, you can see the introductions of robots and submarines and rocket ships. And when we look at the world around us today, of course, we can see these examples. And it's important to note here that we don't mean that science fiction is about predicting the future.

But it's about introducing new concepts and new ideas. And these ideas can become very inspirational, both for scientists and technologists, but also our general collective consciousness. And stories also allow us to do a lot of really interesting things. So, we'll talk about this more and some of the examples, I hope, today. But one of the things that I think is most powerful about stories is that they're human centers. So, often science fiction stories introduce great technologies and great world-building ideas, but really at their core, they are about people and how they react to those technologies and what they do with them.

They allow us to do prototyping, which again, we'll talk about today and do explore these complex ideas, to ask about perhaps unintended consequences of what might happen when we introduce new concepts, and to explore different assumptions around it. They're also relatively cheap, meaning that we can explore some of these ideas without going through the technicalities of actually building it. And we can, again, think through, "Is this good? Is this something that we should be doing? What are some things that we might need to be concerned about?" And then also, they develop a shared language. So, a collaborator of the center, Neil Stevenson, once said that a good science fiction story can save you hours of PowerPoint presentations. And the idea is that when you create a good story, that people start to understand what your goal is, and they can work towards that goal, without necessarily breaking it down into the individual steps.

So, again, a good story and a good science fiction story and a good story about the future can help us develop this shared language that reflect our shared values and our shared goals. And then finally, stories are really engaging. I also write research papers, but people read our science fiction stories way more than they read our research papers. And they reach a broader group of people. And so often, in order to read a white paper or to read a research paper, people feel that they might need advanced degrees or to take a specific course in order to understand things. But science fiction stories engage a much broader public.

And so, there's also a lot of power in that engagement. And so often, when we are developing stories, something that's really important to us is that they be technically grounded. And we also create stories towards the near future. And the idea is because we want these stories to be inspirational. We want someone who is graduating college today, to perhaps be inspired by something that they read and be able to work towards it in their career. And so we typically, in the stories that we create, we set them in the near future.

And in order to provide the technical background, we often pair together science fiction writers and graphic artists with domain experts across a variety of disciplines. And not just the science and technical disciplines, but also of the social science disciplines, so we can talk about how might technologies be used and what will happen in society with them. So, we've created a number of books and collections, most of these are available for free off our website. And often in addition to having science fiction stories, they also have technical response essays from the experts that collaborate with the group.

And in that way, they can be in dialogue with one another. And sometimes the technical responses can reflect on where the science is today, it can talk about how the process has shaped the conversation and shaped the field. And in addition to creating science fiction stories, we also do a number of research projects. So, on the far left is a National Science Foundation project where we're developing new educational technologies. And we're doing some science fiction prototyping in real life. We also research science fiction, we had a grant from Google and Hewlett Foundation, to look at how artificial intelligence was being depicted in science fiction, specifically short science fiction stories.

And then we've also used what might be the first science fiction story. So, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, we did an entire project around that, around the 200th anniversary of that publication. So, in 2018, looking at how we can use Frankenstein as a way to engage young people, in conversations about science ethics and science responsibility. So, the center isn't all about science fiction, but we definitely see it as a really powerful tool, and as a way to engage people in a number of conversations. And we've been successful in getting funding and interest from a variety of organizations who also see value in this methodology and tool.

And again, just really excited to share and talk with the group today. Hirotaka Osawa: Yeah, thank you very much. Yeah. So, when I and Dohjin visited, yeah, as last year, so it's very interesting experience to land houses. You make a very good discussion as a citizen, and also the specialist about workshops.

So, I want to ask a brief question. So, what point do you pay attention to when you team up with the writers and also the citizens? Is there any good way to make a good method to doing this? Yeah. Ruth Wylie: Yes. So, often, when we're forming our teams, we're really looking at people – they don't necessarily need to have specific sets of expertise, but need to be excited about the project and engaged in the ideas. And as I mentioned a bit earlier, we also like to bring in artists, because artists can provide a really nice addition to the teams and also bring in their own contributions on their own.

And so, when we're forming the teams, we often look to what are the needs in the group, and how can we meet those needs with various elements. And we are now looking more for how can we engage various community groups to broaden the diversity and impact of the projects that we do. Hirotaka Osawa: Thank you so much for that advice from Ruth. So, then, we want to step to the next question.

And the concept of science fiction prototyping. So, for the question, I want to ask personally ask Professor Feng Zhang. So, is there a corresponding concept over the time for the SF prototyping in China? Or are there any similar practices? Feng Zhang: Yeah, as far as I know, the exact concept of science fiction or SF prototyping has not been introduced to China yet, so we don't have a corresponding concept for this SF prototyping.

Actually, I'm going to introduce this concept to China, and we are planning to translate the book by Brian David Johnson, the book by Brian into Chinese, and to try to publish in China, we had this plan last year and it caused some problem with the publisher, but we will try to sort out the problem and try to introduce this book to China. Because we think that this book is the start of the whole concept, right. And we also want to introduce this concept to both China science fiction community, and also the business world. So, we have another plan to try to involve some business or corporations to try to do some experiments of SF prototyping practice in China in the near future, we have this plan too. But that being said, I'm answering your question is that I think similar practices also exist in China.

And I will come back with some specific examples, like science fiction education, and like some partnership between science fiction writers and business and also with some local governments. And so, this kind of collaboration or relationship between science fiction and the practices exist in China, we do have some examples to share with you. So, I think I will get back to the examples in later parts of the panel. Yeah, that's the short answer to your question. Hirotaka Osawa: Yeah. Thank you very much. Yeah.

So, I also want to ask a simple question about the notion of the Kēpǔ xiǎoshuō [I can't pronounce clearly] for this query, so I hear that in China there is an original two types of novels, that's science fantasy novel, this kēhuàn xiǎoshuō and also science popular novel Kēpǔ xiǎoshuō. The later one is a very unknown for the Japanese people, so could you explain more about how these two novels are influence to the people and what's the kind of relationship of the two different novel style? Feng Zhang: Okay. To do so, I might need to share the screen a little bit with you guys to illustrate the concepts of these two or three terms. We need to talk about science, fantasy novels and popular novel science novel, we need to trace back to the early history of science fiction in China.

The original concept, the science fiction concept was first introduced to China as early as 1900s in late Qing Dynasty, the term was first translated into Chinese by word, literally as a science novel, science novel, science "kēxué" novel "xiăoshuō." So, in the early times, people thought that this kind of fiction, this kind of novel is about science. And we, in late Qing Dynasty, those people wanted to introduce science to Chinese and they wanted to educate people with science.

So, they are very excited about this concept, science novel. And the translation got changed after 1949 because the new translation was from Russian term. There are three words in the new translations, "science," "fantasy," "novel." With fantasy as in the middle, this translation actually was adopted from Russian term.

Also partially learning from Soviet Union's system. In Soviet Union, there used to be an umbrella term called science, literature, and art. And in China, we adopted this umbrella concept science, literature and art, and we regarded science fantasy novel as part of this science, literature and art, the concept. So, the main idea was, in the early times of Chinese science fantasy novel was to use science fantasy novel to popularize science among the people, particularly among children. So, the science fantasy novel, this translation got very popular first in early 1950s, '60s.

Later in 1970s and '80s, there was a break, there was a break during the Cultural Revolution, but before the revolution, and after the revolution, this concept got very popular. But the inherent conflict within this concept, within the system broke out in early 1980s. So, the science fantasy novel, this concept got some problem in China under the system.

So, after early 1980s, the science fiction community started to fight for the standard law existence outside of the previous system. And for the time being, for now, I can say that the science fiction community has reached the consensus that although science popularization could be important part and function of the science fiction but, by no means, it should constrain the science fiction creation. So, we don't really look at the science popularization as the sole or the major function of science fiction anymore. That being said, still, there's a very small group of writers who insist to call their work science novel, or science popular novel, as they still want to emphasize their writing purpose, which is to popularize science among children, among young readers. So, in either case, I agree with the moderator that the SF prototyping elements do exist in contemporary Chinese science fiction works. Or in other words, many science fiction prototyping works read very much like science popular novels in China.

Because I think the first and very important mission of this creative work is to project some specific technology and innovation into the future. And also to speculate its implications in society. So, everything else, like stories, like plots, like characters, environment is all built around this mission, so my presumption is that because of this tradition, the science popularization tradition in Chinese science fiction history, it might be very easy for both writers and also the receiving ends, the corporations and governments to accept science fiction prototype concept, as new methods for technological innovation for the future projection. That's my presumption, also that's my hope.

Hopefully, I answered your question. Hirotaka Osawa: Yeah. Thank you very much. Yeah. It's very interesting, especially because – yeah, Dr. Dohjin is also working as a science culture writer. So, maybe this kind of connection is a very detailed explanation is very good for supporting our work to step in.

Yeah. So, start with Ruth about the question. So, how widespread is SF prototyping notion in the United States? And what is the historical position of the SF prototyping in your viewpoint here? Ruth Wylie: Yes, I think that's a great question.

And one of the reasons why it's a bit hard to answer actually connects to the previous answer, which is that the ideas behind science fiction prototyping are actually done in many different ways. But it's not always called science fiction prototyping. So, you have other things, like design fiction or speculative fiction or diegetic prototyping or futures thinking.

And there are many different terms. And in fact, the work that we do, we don't always refer to it as science fiction prototyping, but they all share some similarities. So, particularly, and again, to echo what was just said, they share this idea about encouraging people to deliberatively think about futures in new and interesting ways.

And that they can be used in terms of educational tools, and again, in terms of broadening public participation, to recognize that the future isn't just something that other people are taking care of; but the future is something that we all need to make deliberate and specific actions in order to build collectively. And so, the use of science fiction prototyping or all of the other related methods are tools to engage people in both this discourse, but also in this way of thinking about futures in specific ways. And so, it can be challenging, though, to trace a history, because these ideas pop up in many different ways.

But fundamentally, they share a lot of commonalities. Yuuki Namba: Thank you. And I also want to ask the concept of sci-fi prototyping. So, I think there’re first three, the design fiction is popped out by Bruce Turing's first appearance in 2005 and then Julianne Bleeker’s in 2009 essay science fiction prototyping, and design fiction is widespread.

So, Ruth, you think that science fiction is an umbrella term? And there is one of the concept design fiction is hold by the science fiction prototyping concepts. So, design fiction is one of the science fiction? Ruth Wylie: I do think that they share this idea about world building and encouraging people to think about futures. And so, when design fiction, often that is through creating tangible artifacts, and creating these artifacts and not just thinking about it from a technical perspective, but also a social and cultural one. Who would want to use this? How does it change their day? Does it make it better or does it make it worse? And so design fiction exercises by creating those tangible artifacts, it allows people to engage in those thoughts. But narratives, straight science fiction, can also do the same thing.

By reading a story, especially if that story is followed up with conversation or facilitation, but by reading a story, you can also become immersed in what these futures might be. And so again, all of these are tools that share this idea about thinking of the future, about engaging in that thought process. And then, at least in the work that we do, and hopefully, amongst other work, engaging in conversation, because I think the real power of this comes from when communities and when individuals start to speak to each other about what their future visions are. Because that's when real change can start to occur.

Yuuki Namba: Thanks for explaining. Hirotaka Osawa: Thank you very much. So, yeah, I think that there's similar notion is happened. Even in Japan, from 1970 or something, a famous writer, Komatsu Sakyo is joining on the Osaka, Japan Expo, and also joining some kind of creation of the vision and several science fiction writer is also joining the company. So, that might be many kinds of ideas that science fiction where helping our innovation or a future vision. But my vision in the SF prototyping notion, so we are more focusing on the several aspects of how it is contributing to the business, and public agent or government.

So, I want to switch to the next question about these combinations between the business and publications and government. So, for example, a starting point, I want to continue about Ruth's question. So, in the United States, it seems that there have been cases where the science fiction has been used for a long time. So, from our viewpoint, so many attempts have been made, particularly IT companies, and also military industry.

So, how much do currently the United States company invest and expect for the SF prototyping in current situation? And what kind of relationship do you think it's a good way to science fiction to get along well with companies and government and bring about innovation? Yeah. Ruth Wylie: Again, I think it's a great question. And we can see lots of examples of this feedback loop between science fiction and innovation.

So, we can see many scientist technologists, who talk about as young children reading science fiction, and that inspiring them to pursue those careers. But then we can also see several initiatives by companies to produce their own science fiction, both to inspire their current workers and collaborators, but also the next generation. And I think 2015, Microsoft produced an anthology called future visions, that was definitely a corporate impact.

ANA has collaborated with the XPRIZE foundation to think about how science fiction can be used. As you mentioned, several companies have employed futurists and science fiction authors to be part of their boards or on their teams. I mentioned Neil Stevenson a little while ago, but he, I think, is the chief futurist for Magic Leap, which is a technology company. And again, it's this idea of recognizing that new ideas come from different places and that writers bring new ideas, and that, especially when you collaborate and you bring people together that that is what can lead to innovation. And so, I think it is both the idea that science fiction can inspire young people to pursue these careers, but also they can provide that inspiration to people in their career to think about their work differently. And one example that we'd like to talk about from our work at the center is one of our first projects called Project Hieroglyph, where we paired science fiction authors with experts to create technically grounded near-future visions.

We had a structural engineer working with Neil Stevenson, and Neil's question was, how tall can we build a building? And this structural engineer had never been asked that question before, because when you're dealing with the practicalities, it is, "What is the Civil Code say? What can happen?" But he had never just been asked this question of not using any special materials, but just using regular steel, how tall can we build. And so, he uses that as an example of a simple question posed by somebody outside of his field, which really caused him to reflect very differently on a field that he'd been studying for 20 years. And not only does it change the way that he approaches his practice, but it also has changed the way that he approaches education. So, he's a professor, and he now uses science fiction in the teaching of structural engineering to his students. And so, this idea that there are many ways that science fiction can influence future generations as well as current generations. Hirotaka Osawa: Thank you very much.

So, yeah, it seems that some kinds of sci-fi writers' idea is very different viewpoints from the usual people, and especially for the government people, it's very sometimes shocking where the creative idea will we coming. So, yeah, and I also want to ask about Professor Feng Zhang about Chinese situation. So, in China, it seems that government agencies also looking at science fiction.

So, what []can corroboration is taking place? And if you want to add, Dohjin, could you add some question on here. Because you visited about science fiction convention in China. Dohjin Miyamoto: Yeah, yeah, yeah. When I went to the science fiction convention in China, I was surprised at the number of children fans.

What are students reading as a concrete example, science fiction education? Feng Zhang: I think the question is going to be answered by Professor Wu, who is actually on the frontier of collaboration with the government agency also the science fiction education. Wuyan: Okay. So, I am back, right? Okay. I also want to share my screen to you. And first of all, I will share about the science fiction people involved in different areas to have the development of real life— the companies. This is one of example is our group to go to the so called Speech Valley, the Speech Valley is in every province, the main work of them is to do the artificial intelligence, especially for the voice exchange from voice to the written materials. And we, the group of science fiction writers, came there and meeting with a different group of people and we gave some advices to them.

This is one example of last year. And the second year is very much like Ruth said, we have Tencent to work for a game, and to design of the game by science fiction thinkings. This is what we call this to science fiction and society, and also to talking about government support, and recently the government pay more attention to the science fiction. I have two examples. One is from 2017. Each year, government to pay for a conference, to Annual National Conference of Science Fiction. And the first conference, I remember that the Vice President of China, the People's Republic, joined that conference and speak at the beginning.

And I still remember the first sentence he said, "I'm the fan of science fiction. And I want to participant this one to the Chinese science fiction to grow." This is one example. And the second example is just this year, released by state film administration and the China associate for science and technology, some opinions on promoting the development of science fiction films, its content 10 points in different stages of science fiction movie development. The government want to support, for example, to decrease of the tax, to have the new technology involved in that. We call this the government support.

And then the sci-fi education, in different level, in a university level, Chinese science fiction teaching in University have about 30 years is not as much as in United States. Well, we learn in United States in 1950s is already begin. But at that time, China close to Cultural Revolution.

And then after Cultural Revolution in 1976, at that time, China began to learn, "Oh, the whole word happened other— There is other word in in this planet Earth" and then began to catch the train of world of science fiction development. So, at the beginning, science fiction is from English departments for learning English, I remember in 1982. And then in 1991, I created the first science fiction course by using Chinese language in the university.

And right now, in undergraduate level, more and more universities have courses at the present, and most of them related to movie, because we found that the new generation, they don't wish to read the book, you know, they prefer to watch TV and to watch the movie. So, most of the curriculum by using movie as the materials, and in the graduate level was in Beijing Normal University, we have a program of masters and doctors. In other universities, some of their professors supervise the students in their final dissertation about sci-fi studies, but they have no specific program for science fiction, only in Beijing Normal University have.

But when I left, they stopped that. Now, beginning from this year, Southern University of Science and Technology cooperate with the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology to launch a doctorate program. We have already start.

So, we really wish that students from different countries to come to our center to have the doctor's degree program learning. And this is the university level. And this is my classroom, so to say, many people, 160 people attended this year's curriculum, the course. And we show some pictures of the older generations, writers to them. And to the level of primary and secondary school, in the May of 2017, first, the science fiction teaching conference held in Beijing Jingshang School, about 500 teachers participant. This is the first big conference about teaching.

And after that conference released, related to science fiction teaching was held in different cities in different years. For example, in Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province; in Zhuhai, Guangdong province; and in Beijing. This is one aspect.

And the other aspect, this could view from bottom up, the general teachers began to teach science fiction in their classroom. But there's another way, is the top down. In other aspects, the different levels of national or district examinations began to test the science fiction, they use science fiction as materials to test the student. So, that is another way to boost sci-fi teaching.

And let me try to – I will not try. I have some radio[]. But I don't want to show you because they're afraid of collapse. And one series of our science fiction textbook has been created, this is in primary school teaching. That is what I added. Thank you.

Dohjin Miyamoto: So, what do children learn through science fiction? What is the difference between the science fiction education and science education, or literature education and science fiction education? Wuyan: Okay, let me answer this question. Right now, we have three levels of science fiction teaching in K-12 area. In primary school, the most of teaching focus is to have them to protect and create imagination. So, that means a kind of a skill to imagination, creation.

And in junior high, we try to teach them how to move imagination into different subjects, into physics, into mathematics, and into chemistry, biology. This is the second level. And in senior high, we try to teach them by using science fiction to do critical thinking and creative thinking. That is the different in different levels.

Hirotaka Osawa: Thank you. And, Ruth, you also have a question? Yeah. Ruth Wylie: I wanted to jump in and highlight some of the remarkable similarities between the work that you shared, and some of the things I've seen here. So, one, in particular, is the government interest in science fiction during the previous administration, so in 2014, our team, with some science fiction authors, were invited to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, because they were really interested in how do you create policy for technologies that haven't been invented yet? And curious what how our science fiction authors might be able to shed some light on that conversation. And that this idea that when we are creating policy, when we're creating governance, we're doing it not only for the present, but we're also doing it for the future. And so, it's important to also be forward thinking in those policies. And so, I thought that was really interesting.

And I would love to follow up and learn more about the work of sci-fi and education in China across the different levels. I think that is something that the US schools can learn a lot from. And we know that some of the work that we've created at the center has been picked up from teachers here and there. And it shows a lot of promise for how to use science fiction in schools. But there is not, at least that I know of, widespread use of it yet. And so again, there are great examples of individual schools or individual teachers.

We created a comic book style for middle school students teaching about sustainability. And so, there's great examples of one off, but I think that it's really important to think about how can we use science fiction more broadly and across the spectrum? Again, talking about how to engage young people, and not only around science, but around imagination. Hirotaka Osawa: Yeah, that's very important point.

And I think the educational purposes might be along with a good point for studying science fiction. Yeah. And we're also researching about several good researchers and it was a different area, like about a [] reality and also the AIs and also robotics.

But more of the people's interest in the science fiction in the very childhood ages, because several children were reading science fiction, or maybe watching science fiction movie or something. But this comes, yeah, since very good to making an inspiring moment for the children. So, I think Professor Wu and Professor Wylie has also related to education on the university.

So, that might be a key workforce and a starting point on the science fiction in the future. Yeah. Yuuki Namba: And also, I want to ask Wuyan-san and Feng Zhang-san about some gaps between the expectation of government or corporation, and what the science fiction writers and some groups can make the output. So, is there any gap of expectation, and output about the science fiction prototyping or some activities? Wuyan: Yes, I really think there is a big gap between the government want to do and what we want to do. The whole history of Chinese science fiction, the government or intellectuals want science fiction to teach science, to communicate science, but science fiction writers always against that, think science fiction is more about that, it's broader about that. So, through this kind of— even in 1980s, it had a movement to criticize science fiction, as there is pseudoscience, there is no science, you don't want to teach science.

Even up to now, it is still this kind of thinkings. That is why, in different meetings, we try to tell them, it's not. So, last year, I still remember; the year before, when I invited Liu Cixin to come to our university, and some people asked, "How you use science fiction to teach science?" And he said, "Science communication is the first level. If this level grown, science fiction could grow. Science fiction could be the second level, not the first level, not lower than you." That is what I'm thinking about.

They still think it's a tool. But we want to say it's not a tool, it's a skill, it's a human spirit inside that. Yuuki Namba: Thank you.

And also I want to ask Feng Zhang-san. So, Wuyan-san explained about the relationship of government and science fiction, and especially there is some gap of company and the science fiction writers, spirits or some motivation. Feng Zhang: In the company side, yeah. I want to share two examples. To shortly answer your question, yes, there are some collaboration between writers and the corporations. And there is an interest from the company side, from business work.

Share two examples, maybe. First one is – let me use this sharing. The first one is, the so called Baidu, Verne Institute.

Maybe I can show a very short video. Is that working? Hirotaka Osawa: Yes, it's working. Voice is not working. Feng Zhang: The voice is not high? Hirotaka Osawa: Yes. It may be better to share the voice in several option, audio option, it's like a mic. Feng Zhang: Oh, yeah, yeah, that's here.

It's here. I see it. Imagination defines the boundaries of civilization. How imagination encourages us to explore dangerous opportunities. Feng Zhang: Talks about imagination, Baidu Verne Plant. Scientist versus multiple science fiction writers.

Members of this insight. Speaker 1: [Foreign language] David Brian: I'm David Brian. Speaker 2: [Foreign language] Speaker 3: [Foreign language] Speaker 4: [Foreign language] Speaker 5: [Foreign language] Speaker 6: [Foreign language] Speaker 7: ___ approach. Speaker 8: So, I think that, in the future, you should be able to just go home and talk to your TV or talk to your microwave and it understands what you want. Speaker 9: [Foreign language] Feng Zhang: [Inaudible] Speaker 10: And machine collaborated with an author in writing a novel.

Speaker 11: [Foreign language] Speaker 12: Artificial intelligence influence our life in the future, it will do in every way. Feng Zhang: Yeah, this plan actually very exciting, very promising. It was initiated in 2016 by the tech giant, Baidu, the search engine company. According to this news release, the project named after the science fiction father Jules Verne, is to connect top scientists and science fiction writers. And the project, the future technological development in the cutting edges, like AI or biotechnology.

So, you can see from the video that Liu Cixin, David Brian, Ken Liu, those science fiction writers were the first members of the Institute. And also, we can actually find some counterparts in the foreign futurology Institutes, like XPRIZE Foundation. The mission of this institute is very pretty much like the SF prototyping, it's like a prototyping project.

However, unfortunately, the institute seemed to stop working after a few months. We don't know why. We only see one activity happened in 2016. That was the conversation between Liu Cixin and AI expert, Andrew Ng. They talked about the AI's future and how the AI would influence human society.

That was a very good activity, but after that, nothing happened, which is quite pitiful. So, some similar collaboration took place for other tech tycoons, tech giants, like professor Wu just talked about his collaboration with Tencent Research Institute. And that's one example we can observe. Although it didn't work out very well, but that's a good start. A second project I want to share with you is called science fiction writers walking into new state-owned enterprises.

It's organized by the government agencies and private science fiction cultural company, called the Future Affairs and Administration. Since April 2016 last year, a group of science fiction writers were invited to visit some major state-owned enterprises, like the power plants, like the railway engineering equipment company, also like the power grids in the western part of China. During the visit, they communicate with the engineers, with the scientists in the companies, and after the visit, if they got inspired, they can write some stories based on their visit. And some of these stories wrote the ideas are indeed influenced by the new technology development in those big companies. Of course, I think the communication between the scientists, engineers and the science fiction writers is very likely one way, it's just that the science fiction writers learn from the scientists and try to get some stories inspired by the communication. But hopefully, I think the new stories they produced could be inspiration for the new generation, maybe for some engineers, or even for the new generation of students or engineering students, science students to get involved in the new technology developments.

That could be a two-way communication in the future. Hopefully, that could be the case. So, that could really help complete the cycle of the science fiction and science technology development. So, science and technology development inspires science fiction writers to write stories and the stories could also inspire the new generation to make things happen.

These are the two examples I want to share with you in terms of how the science fiction writers are involved in some business or corporation, research or projects. Okay, that's what I want to share with you, the two examples. Hirotaka Osawa: Thank you very much. Yes, it's very interesting that also the government and some business sectors...

Feng Zhang: Yes. Dohjin Miyamoto: I have a question. Feng Zhang: Yeah, go ahead. Dohjin Miyamoto: Ruth, do you know what other otherwise American science fiction writers give to companies? For example, in Feng–san’s movie, there was David Brian. Feng Zhang: David Brian, yes. Dohjin Miyamoto: David Brian has involvement with various companies in the United States.

So, do you know what advice? Feng Zhang: You mean, other science fiction writers, foreign or domestic writers are involved in business research? Dohjin Miyamoto: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Feng Zhang: Yeah, in the movie, in this video, you can see not only Liu Cixin, but also Chen Qiufan actually Chen Qiufan as far as I know, Chen jiu fang, the young writer, was appointed as a member of council member of the XPRIZE foundation. XPRIZE is futurology-oriented foundation in United States, they formed a science fiction console. And they invited Chen Qiufan as one of the members. And they conducted some projects related to futurology thinking.

For example, they invited the science fiction writers to write about the future of ocean. The future of ocean, there was a project, I remember, and Chen Qiufan and other science fiction writers wrote stories about future of the ocean impact in our planet. And in China, we don't have a very good traditional, like futurist, in collaboration with business, maybe Professor Wu can share with us your collaboration with Tencent.

You do have a collaboration with Tencent, the Tencent Research Institute. What did you guys do? Wuyan: But right now, we only work with them about their game. Feng Zhang: The game design. Okay. Yeah, that's another aspect of collaboration, maybe not about futurology, but about the world building game design, film advisory like Liu Cixin, I know he participated in many film production, including Wandering Earth and other science fiction movies. He told us that he was approached by many film producers and directors.

So, not only him, but also other science fiction writers, they are approached by the film industry to participate in the film and TV production. Many examples, many cases are there in China. Dohjin Miyamoto: Thank you, Feng Zhang.

And now I have a question for Ruth. How the American science fiction writers advise companies in America? Ruth Wylie: I think a lot of the details are under nondisclosure agreements where they don't share them very publicly. But I think that the specifics are perhaps beyond what I can talk about today. But more broadly, I think it's about a lot of what we've already talked about in terms of helping companies view not only their products, but the way their products will be used in different and new ways. And picking up on what was just talked about media, something that we have seen more and more interest in is not only bringing in science fiction writers to help with creating movies, but also scientists to help with creating movies. And they're sort of the famous example of the movie Interstellar, where when the scientist was collaborating to describe how to visually depict a black hole, that that collaboration not only lead to beautiful film, but also lead to scientific discoveries.

And so, I think both the science community, but also those who are producing media, see relationships that can be beneficial to both sides. And I think that at the highest level, that integrating not just science fiction writers or futurists with companies but interdisciplinary teams in general does, is it provides this new insight, it provides a new way of thinking. And so, when you are working with a group of experts, who have all been trained in the same way, and are all used to asking each other the same questions or using the same methodologies, you tend to get the same answers.

But when you bring in diversity and whether that, again, is through science fiction authors or other disciplines, then you can get new questions and new methods, and hopefully, then new innovation. And so I think that the idea is that science fiction authors are a nice bridge, because they're used to dealing in the technicalities, and they're used to dealing with the science, but they also bring a narrative perspective and a futures perspective and a creative perspective to the process. Dohjin Miyamoto: Thank you. Hirotaka Osawa: Thank you very much. So, maybe I want to share that in Japanese recent situation. So, basically, Japanese recent situations, most of all stories relate to the several companies.

But mainly, this is about the request to writing the fictions based on the technology, like Shimizu Corporation is hiring several sci-fi writers like Jyouji Hayashi or several writers writing several fictions to how the technology will be developed in the future visions, and also the Nissan Corporation. It's a car company, also hiring several people. But there's several another aspect of the usage, like using science fiction for the warning of several security program, like for examole a security sector that Japanese government is hiring about, Satoshi Hase was writer of the Beatless. It's kind of artificial intelligence fiction. And they also warn about the security program of their visions.

And also Taiyo Fujii, the Fujii Taiyo is invited to the moonshot project, it's kind of creating the new research area, and they firstly create a visionary committee for creating the vision. And one was a member of Fujii Taiyo, Fujii Taiyo also joined about creations of visions. And I think that it's kind of the non disclosure contract. So, maybe some of the people is related to the works. I[] want the broadcast.

There's many kinds of the usage of the science fiction, and yeah, not only just for advertisement, but also maybe some kinds of discussion of ideas or making some stickings, some conservative idea, sorts of people to make more new visions. Yeah, yeah. That's in Japan situation. And it's my view, we have a same situation in worldwide I hope for a mixture of the discussion. Yeah. Thank you very much. So, I want to step to the next question about the environment around the science fiction.

Because there is so much of science fiction fans in each of the community. So, I first want to ask Professor Feng Zhang about question on here. So, we have an impression that there are many science fiction research clubs in university in China. So, how does science fiction writers groups fandoms cooperate with universities? And also China's Galaxy Awards has a wide range of categories and hours, many people, so how does such strategy help create in popularity of science fiction? Yeah. Feng Zhang: Okay, thank you for your question. The first question, let me also share the video and share the PowerPoint.

The first question is about research clubs in universities. I think there are many science fiction clubs or societies in the university formed by students, I think it's more like student interest clubs. And the recent number I've got is more than 100 clubs in universities. But doing research is not what these clubs do. They are doing readings, they're doing like writings, but researching is probably not the major mission of those clubs, but in terms of research in universities, I want to mention some research oriented centers, like the Imagination Center in Shenzhen in Southern University of Science and Technology. Also, there are other research centers like the China SF (science fiction) Research Center, which was just established or launched this year in Beijing.

And also another one founded in 2019. Last year is SCU University Science Fiction Research Center. Professor Wu is a student, Dr. Jiang Chen was part of this research center.

And the science fiction research attracts a lot of academic attention recently. According to statistics, I can see that more than 1,000 research articles are being published in China in recent years, every year. I mean, every year, more than 1,000 articles published. So, that's a huge boost as compared to 10 years ago or 20 years ago.

Nowadays, science fiction research is very hot in China. And a noteworthy phenomenon is that some young and prominent researchers grow up as diehard science fiction fans, like some of them I listed here, like Xia Jia, Fei Dao, Li Ken, and Jiang Zhenyu, they have very similar career paths or growth paths. They used to be science fiction fans.

And in colleges started to study science fiction, and they pursued their degrees in science fiction, and they joined universities and joined the research institutes as experts in science fiction. And they choose science fiction as their research interest. And they are now very key persons, key figures in our science fiction research community. We have a very strong and ever-growing science fiction research community in China. And going back to your question about collaboration between science fiction writers and universities, because science fiction is becoming more and more popular among young people, college students, so it's very natural that those science fiction writers are invited to give talks and to participate in some science fiction related research projects in the universities, like we invited many substantial writers in our classroom, and we invited them to participate in some research projects like the science fiction industry projects.

And more interesting question is whether the science fiction writers are invited to participate in some cutting edge research, like the AI research. Some examples I can show you. For example, the recent example is the AI writing program developed by the Sinovation Ventures. This is a company is a venture company, they developed AI programs to write stories to write with AI. And Chen Xiufang is a partner with this venture. And they invited 11 science fiction writers to collaborate with AI programs to write new science fiction stories, it's called a co-creation era.

And hopefully, after the collaboration, they can create some interesting stories both by AI and also by the writers. It's an interesting program. We can wait for their results, their stories. I'm waiting for their stories. And your second question is about science fiction awards.

Just very interesting. I coincidentally, I had just written a piece of policy paper for the government to talk about how to develop our science fiction awards. My major point of view is that the existing top science fiction awards, like the Galaxy Awards or Chinese Nebula Awards, are very crucial in making very good science fiction writers and stories known to the public, so outside of the community, people know about science fiction through these awards. It's very crucial, but it's still not sufficient to lead the development of the entire science fiction industry.

For example, as far as I know, there are some categories of films, games in the Galaxy Award, in Nebula Awards. But there's a lack of involvement of those industry people, the patents of the industry, they don't really participate in this Galaxy Awards or Nebula Awards. So, a proposal made in the policy paper is that we could establish some specialized Film Awards or Game Awards to award the talents in the industry, to really involve the industry people to make them interested in doing more science fiction related creative works, like films, like games. So, the genre of science fiction in China is already penetrating into popular culture and into our daily life. So, it's time to really set up some awards to encourage people to join this industry.

So, of course, it requires crossfield collaboration to make these awards really work. Used to be the case that it didn't work very well for us to collaborate with the industry people in making this award to work. But hopefully, after the involvement of the – I mean the government can play a role in this awards presentation and awards organization, and the cross field collaboration can happen and can make some impact in the development of the whole industry. So, that's my answer to your question.

Hirotaka Osawa: Yeah. Thank you very much. So, I think that this kind of award might be helping to – yeah, increase the communities and also making an industry to joining and it's a very good approach. Yeah.

Because it's comparing to the Japan, so it's kind of the sci-fi fandom is enthusiastic but some old people is, relatively the fans are more older. And yeah, we are very surprising that there is now many young people joining on including university. And also yeah, that might be a good idea to making some kind of award in the industry. So, yeah, that's a good, pretty great idea.

Yeah, thank you very much. Feng Zhang: No problem. Hirotaka Osawa: And I also have a question about Ruth about the United States situation. So, how do you communicate with science fiction writers and organizers and fandom? Yeah. And how many researchers and institute exist for literary and expressive general science fiction? And we also interested about the Hugo Award sometimes emphasize diversity. And how is the science fiction understood as a [literature] genre in the United States in this kind of area? Yeah.

Ruth Wylie: Yeah, definitely a lot to unpack there. So, we start about how we work with writers and fandom. There are several different ways.

And so one thing that we have been really fortunate to do when we work with our writers, and they create stories for us, as many of those are then entered into award contest. So, many of the authors that we've worked with have later won awards for the pieces that they've worked on the projects. And this really helps with both gaining credibility among other writers, but also bringing aware

2021-04-26 10:32

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