Business Technology

Saturday 22 October 2016

Huawei's looking to the future - one of killer robots and children chatting to their dead grandparents

Edwin chan

Published 12/05/2016 | 02:30

Chinese giant examines movies such at The Matrix to plot future moves.
Chinese giant examines movies such at The Matrix to plot future moves.

Chinese technology giant Huawei is preparing for a world where people live forever, dead relatives linger on in computers and robots try to kill humans.

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Huawei is best known as one of the world's largest producers of broadband network equipment and smartphones. But Kevin Ho, president of its handset product line, told the CES Asia conference in Shanghai the company used science fiction movies like 'The Matrix' to envision future trends and new business ideas.

"Hunger, poverty, disease or even death may not be a problem by 2035, or 25 years from now," he said. "In the future you may be able to purchase computing capacity to serve as a surrogate, to pass the baton from the physical world to the digital world."

He described a future where children could use apps like WeChat to interact with dead grandparents, thanks to the ability to download human consciousness into computers. All of these technologies would require huge amounts of data storage, which in turn could generate business for Huawei, he added.

Ho also referred to a scene in 'The Matrix where a character downloads the ability to fly a helicopter.

"That kind of data download volume exceeds current levels," he said. "In the future storage will need to exceed 15,000 Zettabytes so this is a huge increase."

In Silicon Valley, high-tech companies like Google have discussed long-term planning for a post-human society, while Calico and venture capitalist Peter Thiel have both raised the prospect of immortality. SpaceX founder Elon Musk has long held the goal of transporting humanity to colonies on other planets.

But it is rare for established Chinese technology firms like Huawei to make business preparations based on the intangible possibilities facing the species. Ho said science fiction films helped spur his team to consider new product lines.

"A lot of science fiction has prompted me to have this type of thinking - in science fiction we've seen some terrible worlds where technology destroys human society," he said. Ho described a film in which a character - apparently an artificial intellligence persona - absorbs ideas from books then launches an attack on humanity. "There's a very interesting film where Mr Wong has a task of downloading books, he also has a task of printing books and later he kills human beings. Therefore we need better safety technology.

"We need authentication, better tech protection and remote defence - we are developing all of these now." (Bloomberg)

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