No Kidding, Baidu Launches Project to Bring Sci-Fi Into Reality on April Fool’s Day

(Xinhua News Agency, April 1, 2016. Complete text:) Beijing - China’s search engine giant Baidu launched a project to bring scientists and sci-fi writers to collaborate on imaginative research on Friday [April 1].

The project, named the Verne Institute after French writer Jules Verne, aims to blend wild imagination and solid science to bring more possibilities, Zhang Yaqin, president of Baidu, told Xinhua in an email interview on Friday. Verne famously said "Anything one man can imagine, other men can make real."

Baidu chose to launch the project on April Fool’s Day for a sense of contrast to underline the reality of it, Liu Chun with the company’s marketing department said.

Bridging science and sci-fi may be new in China but is a common way of collaboration elsewhere in the world, Zhang said. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination from the US has shown interest in working with the Verne project, he added.

Members of the project include Baidu’s chief scientist Andrew Ng and sci-fi writers Liu Cixin, David Brin, Ken Liu, Chen Qiufan and Yao Haijun. Liu Cixin won the 2015 Hugo Award in Best Novel with his work The Three Body Problem, translated into English by Ken Liu.

The members will meet regularly. Writers will provide ideas while scientists explore their feasibility. The members are not paid for participating in the project.

More scientists and writers will be recruited in the future. The project has yet to convene its first meeting, but artificial intelligence (AI) is high on its agenda, according to Baidu’s introduction of the project.

Focus on AI.

"We made AI the project’s priority because it is the best area to bring imagination and Baidu’s technological edge into full play," Zhang Yaqin said.

Technology is the core of Baidu, which spends 16% to 17% of ...

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