Business / Technology

Baidu seeks help from science fiction writers to realize AI ambition

By Meng Jing (China Daily) Updated: 2016-04-01 07:32

Baidu seeks help from science fiction writers to realize AI ambition

Google CEO Sundar Pichai plays with top Go player Ke Jie at a Go school in Beijing on March 31, 2016. Pichai also talked about technology with Ke and other players. [Provided to China Daily]

April Fools' Day is not all about pranks. China's Internet giant Baidu is dead serious about its plan- to be launched on April 1-to include science fiction writers in its research on artificial intelligence.

The Baidu Verne Plan involves setting up a consulting team to bring the world's best science fiction writers together with leading scientists in a quest to turn imagination into reality.

The project, named after French novelist Jules Verne, has already invited six people to be the first group of advisers in the team, according to Beijing-based Baidu.

The company said that some of Verne's imagination seen in his books in the 19th century, such as helicopters, had been realized in the 20th century.

Apart from Andrew Ng, Baidu's chief scientist, the other five advisers are science fiction writers. They include Liu Cixin, who last year became the first Asian author to win the Hugo Award for Best Novel for his book The Three-Body Problem, and David Brin, an award-winning author from the United States.

Baidu said in a statement that the advisers will receive updated information on how the company is developing certain technologies.

They will also be able to communicate with Baidu's research and development team to turn some of the ideas into products through brainstorming.

Liu Cixin told The Paper in an interview: "This is an innovative organization. Many ideas, along with innovative work, will be born here. The project will focus on artificial intelligence, and there will be an opportunity for us to work with scientists once the project is officially launched."

Baidu said the project is highly exclusive, open only by invitation.

It is in line with the company's ambitions, as its President Zhang Yaqin has said artificial intelligence is the foundation to empower traditional industries and make them smart. He told China Daily, "Baidu has made some world-class achievements in the key subfields of artificial intelligence, such as image recognition, voice recognition, machine translation and self-driving cars."

Artificial intelligence is viewed by many other Chinese companies as the next "big thing", especially after Google's AlphaGo artificial intelligence program beat a South Korean world-class Go player recently.

Industry insiders say computers are likely to replace humans in a number of areas.

Beijing-based Internet finance company said it is about to launch a service using robots to offer wealth management advice to middle-class clients.

Dong Jun, the company's chief executive officer, said, "Through deep learning, it is possible that the machines will be able to calculate investment risk, predict investment yield and offer tailor-made financial advice to individuals after analyzing a huge pool of data."

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