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Fill This Form To Be Reincarnated In China (The Funny Side)

Fill up a form for reincarnation in China

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The live streaming industry has been in focus since February in the ongoing operations targeting online pornographic content. Pixabay
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A woman in China said recently that her dead husband had returned to their home reincarnated as a young cow. It behaves just like him, said Khim Hang, 74, from the Kratie province of Cambodia, without going into detail.

Sounds legit. Since cows divide their time between eating, pooping and sleeping, you can totally see they can remind people of married men.

“The young cow was born in March and has attracted a strong following on social media,” Reuters reported. How depressing it is to read that even farm animals have better web skills than this columnist and his peers.

the image of Reincarnation
FILE IMAGE – Reincarnation

Reincarnation was on my mind after several recent references to it in the media. For example, one news story was headlined: “Pig in Australia steals 18 beers, gets drunk and fights cow”. Reader Mark Agee wrote: “I never believed in reincarnation before but… Dad?”

Then a reader sent me a photo of a sign affixed to the tiger sanctuary in a zoo somewhere in India: “Only those who strongly believe in rebirth should risk going near.”

On the Western side of the planet, newspapers reported the sad news that the delightful Carey Williams, author of books on reincarnation, “passed away” in the first week of March. Surely “took a break” would make more sense? Indeed, I’ve heard it said that tombstones of people who believe in reincarnation should not say “RIP” (Rest In Peace) but “BRB” (Be Right Back).

One of my male friends says that the existence of feminism is proof of rebirth: “Feminists are when guys get reincarnated as women.” I don’t know about his next life but I suspect his current one may be rather on the short side.

Also Read: Kim Jong Un Reportedly on Visit to China

Now here’s the curious thing. Birth rates in the West and the Far East have plummeted while they are rising in South Asia and Africa. So if a Westerner, say Donald Trump, gets reincarnated, there’s a 75 per cent chance he’ll be Asian or African. Hope he’s cool with that. The food in Mumbai’s better than Western “food”, anyway.

In China, the law says that tulkus (Buddhist teachers who have lived at least one past life) must have filled in a Reincarnation Application Form and had it approved in their previous life. I am not making this up. Look up China’s State Religious Affairs Bureau Order No.5 if you don’t believe me.

This writer struggles to believe in reincarnation, but has lots of friends who do.

“Dying people see a light at the end of the tunnel — that’s you being born into your next life,” explained the friend mentioned above.

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A woman travelling to China. Pixabay

I told him that was even more depressing! After years of toil on earth, surely you deserve at least a couple of weeks’ holiday somewhere (say the heavenly version of an Ibiza nightclub) before rebirth? Life is exhausting.

Unless of course you’re a pet cow, and only having to divide your time between sleeping, pooping and eating. Maybe Khim Hang’s husband has got the right idea.

If one gets to choose, I would be reborn as a potato. My wife could put me on the sofa, and voila: Everything back to just how it was.

(Nury Vittachi is an Asia-based frequent traveller. Send ideas and comments via his Facebook page)  IANS

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World’s First AI News Anchor Debuts From China

The analyst urges China to open up and include multinational software and services to contribute to its digital economic transformation.

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AI News ANchor
Xinhua news anchor Qiu Hao stands next to an AI virtual news anchor based on him, at a Sogou booth during an expo at the fifth World Internet Conference in Wuzhen town of Jiaxing, Zhejiang province, China. VOA

China’s state-run Xinhua News has debuted what it called the world’s first artificial intelligence (AI) anchor. But the novelty has generated more dislikes than likes online among Chinese netizens, with many calling the new virtual host “a news-reading device without a soul.”

Analysts say the latest creation has showcased China’s short-term progress in voice recognition, text mining and semantic analysis, but challenges remain ahead for its long-term ambition of becoming an AI superpower by 2030.

Nonhuman anchors

Collaborating with Chinese search engine Sogou, Xinhua introduced two AI anchors, one for English broadcasts and the other for Chinese, both of which are based on images of the agency’s real newscasters, Zhang Zhao and Qiu Hao respectively.

In its inaugural broadcast last week, the English-speaking anchor was more tech cheerleader than newshound, rattling off lines few anchors would be caught dead reading, such as: “the development of the media industry calls for continuous innovation and deep integration with the international advanced technologies.”

AI News Anchor
This photo illustration shows a man watching an artificial intelligence (AI) news anchor from a state-controlled news broadcaster, on his computer in Beijing, VOA

It also promised “to work tirelessly to keep you [audience] informed as texts will be typed into my system uninterrupted” 24/7 across multiple platforms simultaneously if necessary, according to the news agency.

No soul

Local audiences appear to be unimpressed, critiquing the news bots’ not so human touch and synthesized voices.

On Weibo, China’s Twitterlike microblogging platform, more than one user wrote that such anchors have “no soul,” in response to Xinhua’s announcement. And one user joked: “what if we have an AI [country] leader?” while another questioned what it stands for in terms of journalistic values by saying “What a nutcase. Fake news is on every day.”

Others pondered the implication AI news bots might have on employment and workers.

“It all comes down to production costs, which will determine if [we] lose jobs,” one Weibo user wrote. Some argued that only low-end labor-intensive jobs will be easily replaced by intelligent robots while others gloated about the possibility of employers utilizing an army of low-cost robots to make a fortune.

AI News ANchor
The creation showcases China’s progress in voice recognition. Flickr

A simple use case

Industry experts said the digital anchor system is based on images of real people and possibly animated parts of their mouths and faces, with machine-learning technology recreating humanlike speech patterns and facial movements. It then uses a synthesized voice for the delivery of the news broadcast.

The creation showcases China’s progress in voice recognition, text mining and semantic analysis, all of which is covered by natural language processing, according to Liu Chien-chih, secretary-general of Asia IoT Alliance (AIOTA).

But that’s just one of many aspects of AI technologies, he wrote in an email to VOA.

Given the pace of experimental AI adoption by Chinese businesses, more user scenarios or designs of user interface can be anticipated in China, Liu added.

Chris Dong, director of China research at the market intelligence firm IDC, agreed the digital anchor is as simple as what he calls a “use case” for AI-powered services to attract commercials and audiences.

AI News Anchor
Others pondered the implication AI news bots might have on employment and workers.

He said, in an email to VOA, that China has fast-tracked its big data advantage around consumers or internet of things (IoT) infrastructure to add commercial value.

Artificial Intelligence has also allowed China to accelerate its digital transformation across various industries or value chains, which are made smarter and more efficient, Dong added.

Far from a threat to the US

But both said China is far from a threat to challenge U.S. leadership on AI given its lack of an open market and respect for intellectual property rights (IPRs) as well as its lagging innovative competency on core AI technologies.

Earlier, Lee Kai-fu, a well-known venture capitalist who led Google before it pulled out of China, was quoted by news website Tech Crunch as saying that the United States may have created Artificial Intelligence, but China is taking the ball and running with it when it comes to one of the world’s most pivotal technology innovations.

Lee summed up four major drivers behind his observation that China is beating the United States in AI: abundant data, hungry entrepreneurs, growing AI expertise and massive government support and funding.

AI News Anchor
People watching the AI News Anchor

Beijing has set a goal to become an AI superpower by 2030, and to turn the sector into a $150 billion industry.

Yet, IDC’s Dong cast doubts on AI’s adoption rate and effectiveness in China’s traditional sectors. Some, such as the manufacturing sector, is worsening, he said.

He said China’s “state capitalism may have its short-term efficiency and gain, but over the longer-term, it is the open market that is fundamental to building an effective innovation ecosystem.”

The analyst urges China to open up and include multinational software and services to contribute to its digital economic transformation.

Also Read: Heavy Cyber Attacks From Russia, US, China in India

“China’s ‘Made-in-China 2025’ should go back to the original flavor … no longer Made and Controlled by Chinese, but more [of] an Open Platform of Made-in-China that both local and foreign players have a level-playing field,” he said.

In addition to a significant gap in core technologies, China’s failure to uphold IPRs will go against its future development of AI software, “which is often sold many-fold in the U.S. than in China as the Chinese tend to think intangible assets are free,” AIOTA’s Liu said. (VOA)