Science Fiction and Philosophy: An Encounter in the Future

April 28, 2021

4am Virtual


April 28, 2021: 4:00 a.m. – 6:40 a.m. PDT | 19:00-21:40 CST

Click here link to register

About the Event:
Imaginative and forward-looking science-fiction narratives have been around for more than two centuries since the publication of Frankenstein, the world’s first sci-fi novel. Since then, many fantasies of the past have become reality, including spacewalks, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and brain-computer interfaces. Prophetic conceptions in science fiction have depicted transformations and challenges brought to human thought, society, morality, and civilization by the development of science and technology.

At the same time, these also pose important philosophical questions:

• How does the rapid development of technology change our understanding of the self, consciousness, and free will?

• In an era of knowledge explosion and accelerating transformations of the human, how do we understand the social and natural reality?

• How is it possible to achieve a good life and well-being?

It may be that the narrators of science fiction are alluding to philosophical issues in their stories, while philosophers are abstractly and systemically creating a possible world. In this sense, both are attempting to answer those significant questions faced by humanity through different approaches. In 2021, we hope to organize a series of discussions and workshops centered around science fiction and philosophy to explore the correlation between the two and discuss their long-term significance.

On April 28, we will hold an online workshop titled “Science Fiction and Philosophy: An Encounter in the Future,” where guests will be invited to share their thoughts on the development of the project.


Opening Notes by Guest Moderator:

4:00 – 4:10 a.m. PDT | 19:00–19:10 CST
Zhang Xianglong, Professor, Department of Philosophy, Peking University

Session 1: Science Fiction and Intelligence Science

4:10 – 4:40 a.m. PDT | 19:10–19:40 CST
Mu Ming, Sci-fi writer
Wang Qiu, Associate Professor, School of Philosophy, Fudan University

Session 2: Science Fiction and Simulated Reality

4:40 – 5:10 a.m. PDT | 19:40–20:10 CST
Bao Shu, Sci-fi writer, and translator
Liu Yang, Senior Research Fellow, Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, University of Cambridge

Session 3: Science Fiction as Thought Experiment

5:10 – 5:40 a.m. PDT | 20:10–20:40 CST
Chen Qiufan, Sci-fi writer, screenwriter, translator, and curator
Tian Song, Professor, Director of the Center for Science and Civilization, Southern University of Science and Technology

Break: 5:40 – 5:50 a.m. PDT | 20:40–20:50 CST

Session 4: Philosophy in Chinese Science Fiction Narratives

5:50 – 6:20 a.m. PDT | 20:50–21:20 CST
Shuang Chi Mu, Sci-fi writer, PhD candidate, School of Philosophy, Renmin University of China
Sanfeng, Research Fellow, Research Center for Science and Human Imagination, Southern University of Science and Technology

Discussion: 6:20 – 6:40 a.m. PDT | 21:20–21:40 CST

Host: Berggruen Research Center, Peking University | Ideas for a changing world
The Berggruen Research Center is a hub for East-West research and dialogue dedicated to the cross-cultural and interdisciplinary study of the transformations affecting humanity. Intellectual themes focus on frontier technologies and society—specifically in artificial intelligence, the microbiome and gene editing as well as issues involving global governance and globalization.

composed by Arswain
machine learning consultation by Anna Tskhovrebov
commissioned by the Berggruen Institute
premiered at the Bradbury Building
downtown Los Angeles
april 22, 2022

Human perception of what sounds “beautiful” is necessarily biased and exclusive. If we are to truly expand our hearing apparatus, and thus our notion of beauty, we must not only shed preconceived sonic associations but also invite creative participation from beings non-human and non-living. We must also begin to cede creative control away from ourselves and toward such beings by encouraging them to exercise their own standards of beauty and collaborate with each other.

Movement I: Alarm Call
‘Alarm Call’ is a long-form composition and sound collage that juxtaposes, combines, and manipulates alarm calls from various human, non-human, and non-living beings. Evolutionary biologists understand the alarm call to be an altruistic behavior between species, who, by warning others of danger, place themselves by instinct in a broader system of belonging. The piece poses the question: how might we hear better to broaden and enhance our sense of belonging in the universe? Might we behave more altruistically if we better heed the calls of – and call out to – non-human beings?

Using granular synthesis, biofeedback, and algorithmic modulation, I fold the human alarm call – the siren – into non-human alarm calls, generating novel “inter-being” sonic collaborations with increasing sophistication and complexity. 

Movement II: A.I.-Truism
A synthesizer piece co-written with an AI in the style of Vangelis’s Blade Runner score, to pay homage to the space of the Bradbury Building.

Movement III: Alarmism
A machine learning model “learns” A.I.Truism and recreates Alarm Call, generating an original fusion of the two.

Movement IV: A.I. Call
A machine learning model “learns” Alarm Call and recreates A.I.Truism, generating an original fusion of the two.