2021 Annual Report

While international borders remain largely closed in 2021 and our life has been subject to unpredictable lockdowns and social distancing policies, the China Center managed to continue our programming activities and launch several new projects.

We published four books in 2021. An abridged version of the Center’s first book Intelligence and Wisdom: Artificial Intelligence Meets Chinese Philosophers was translated to English and published by Springer in September. All under Heaven: The Tianxia System for a Possible World Order, an English translation of philosopher Zhao Tingyang’s seminal work on the Tianxia system, was published by University of California Press in June. Out of the Anthropocene: Philosophical Musings on the Relationship between Humanity and Nature (in Chinese), a collection of reflective essays by Berggruen fellows on the Covid pandemic, was published by CITIC Press in November. Lastly, in partnership with Peking University Press, we published the first book in our Chinese translation series on AI ethics — Social Robots: Boundaries, Potential, Challenges by Marco Nørskov.

We have reached new milestones in ongoing projects and launched new ones. Our flagship project Tianxia (All-under-Heaven) had its second international conference this year on alternative models of geopolitical order. The corresponding project report “Taking the World as the World: In Search of a Planetary World Order” details key findings of this project since its launch in 2018. Our new project on planetary philosophy explores the intersections of life sciences, ecological studies, and Gong Sheng (co-survival and mutual embeddedness) in Chinese philosophical traditions. In another new project, “Imagining Futures,” we aim to promote evidence-based and future-oriented ethical thinking.

In the second episode of the Global Thinkers Series, a collaboration with Caixin Global, we hosted Professor Wang Gungwu, the Singapore based historian and former Vice Chancellor of the University of Hong Kong, for a conversation on “Understanding the Sinic Civilization in World History.”

We continued with our Berggruen Seminar Series and featured topics such as gene editing, societal development in the era of high-tech, big data and scientific thinking, and applied mathematics and its worldviews.

Our online content platform — n (the Chinese character for wisdom) has published a total of 93 articles — some are translations of articles published by the Institute’s flagship journal NOĒMA and some are original contributions — since its launch in October 2020.

The Center welcomed a new cohort of fellows, including philosophers, sociologists, biologists, computer scientists, and brain scientists. Chen Haidan, Chen Xiaoping, Ge Jianqiao, Li Chenjian, Liu Xiaoli and Zhang Xianglong will lead projects on AI ethics, brain computer interfaces, brain development and new forms of intelligence, gene editing and ethics, embodied cognition, and alternative sci-fi and the philosophy of family.

Last but not least, the Center bid farewell to its first employee — Shelley Hu, who has embarked on a PhD program in environmental economics. We welcomed Sun Xinwei, our new program coordinator, to the team. We wish you all a healthy and active winter ahead. Look forward to a roaring year of the Tiger in 2022!

Fullscreen Mode

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.

RAVE (IRCAM 2021) https://github.com/acids-ircam/RAVE