Xiu Xinyu: In the age of AI, we must be able to make ethical and value judgments

By Nicki Johnson / hicn.cn / Updated: 10:53,03-November-2021

Editor’s commentary: Since the start of the 21st century, the global economy as well as science & technology have been developing at breakneck speeds, the world’s art and culture have become intertwined, and the distance in space and time between people has suddenly been reduced. Methods of interaction between people and the shapes of societies and cultures around the globe all bear marks of the current age. The New Hainan App, which focuses on science, art, psychology, medicine, ethics, the environment, and related topics, together with the Hainan International Media Center, have invited renowned Chinese authors, poets, and scholars to participate in a new series of Author Perspectives. We hope you will find them both enjoyable and informative.

Currently, AI technology is in broad use in many fields, including science, criminal investigation, education, medical treatment, news, communications, and media. Both time and money can be saved through AI’s lightning fast, highly complex calculations, making the development of AI a transformational technological advance for society.

Facing this new technology, which surpasses human abilities and allows people to benefit from increased convenience in their daily lives, do people also feel more worried and concerned about it?


In today’s column, the New Hainan APP’s culture channel and HIMC present an interview with the celebrated young novelist Xiu Xinyu, in which she will share her views on the matter.

Xiu Xinyu, born in 1993 in Qingdao, Shandong, holds a Master’s Degree in Philosophy from Tsinghua University, is a member of the China Writers Association and the China Science Writers Association. Her works have been published in Shanghai Literature, Great Masters, Frontiers, Flower City, Lotus, Clarkesworld, and other publications. She has won several prizes including the People’s Liberation Army Literature and Art Work of Excellence Award, the fourth Lao She Youth Theater Literary Award, and the Science Fiction Water Drop Short Story First Prize.

Currently, AI is having an increasingly important effect on society. In your opinion, how has AI influenced and changed your life?

Recently there has been great progress in AI technology, prompting innovation in the movie and cartoon industries. In the near future, the cost of creating special effects will continue to drop, giving viewers the opportunity to see even more spectacular effects - or perhaps it will cause viewers to become numb to these kinds of amazing effects, causing a return to filmmakers focusing on the essence of storytelling.

Do you have concerns about the rapid development of technology?

No. In fact the China Youth Publishing Group has worked together with the Xiaoice AI Team to create our own AI, Shi Xiaoqing. From a product manager’s perspective, AI is not developing nearly as fast as people think. If we compare AI to a self-driving car, currently it still needs people to build the roads.

What are your views on current science fiction literature? If you could choose one sci-fi plot to come true, which one would you choose?

In my view, current sci-fi is more and more focused on reassessing the ethical nature of what society will be like in the future. If any science fiction story could come true, of course I want it to be a bright, happy one, for example curing cancer or finding a clean energy source, that kind of thing. To be honest, I would prefer that most of the events and plots in science fiction do not come true - especially books about interstellar wars or nuclear conflicts.

As we go further day by day into the era of AI, what skills do you think people should learn?

No matter what era it is, I believe that people should learn how to make ethical and value judgments. AI can formulate rules based on human ethical and value judgments, but in reality as situations are constantly in flux, clearly defining ethics and values is actually quite difficult.

Do you think there should be laws and rules restricting the advance of AI technology?

Yes. In fact, all technologies need to be restricted by laws and rules, not only AI, but also genetic engineering, aviation, space flight, etc. If there are not clear boundaries put into place, technologies will continue to grow, destroying society and culture. Actually we are not restricting AI itself, but scientists and companies working in the field of AI. If AI really turns out to be as inhumane and cunning as it is in many science fiction novels, what use would human rules and laws be against it?

Are you worried about AIs becoming artificial people?

It would be better to ask an AI this question, and see if any of them want to become artificial people (and not AI cats, AI suns, etc.) I’m not sure that they would.

Liu Xinting contributed to this story.

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