Student English competition shares ideas for an 'ideal future'
The concept of the future is incredibly inspiring. What does your ideal future look like?
Young students gave their answers from the perspectives of "the ideal relationship between humans and technology" and "the ideal relationship between humans and animals," with an English writing competition co-organized by Shanghai Daily and Shanghai Students' Post.
Since it was launched in March, the 2023 "Future Star for an Ideal Life" English talent show, sponsored by Royal Canin, received over 6,000 submissions from two age groups, one from grades 1-5 and the other from grades 6-9.
After one round of selection by a panel of judges based on their writing, and another round of online voting for their speech videos, 40 finalists presented their ideas on Friday.
Bao Wenxin from the Shanghai Changzheng Central Primary School won first prize within the grades 1-5 group, imagining future technology to help us better communicate with our pets. Chai Haotian from Shanghai No. 4 Middle School was the champion in the group from grades 6-9, with his opinions about an AI family member in the future.
Bao said she had a dream to make the country and the world a better place for our pets and for us, so we can both live longer.
"Imagine one day your mother tells you 'I'll be away for a long time, but here's an AI version of me, she can take care of you'," Chai shared on stage.
"Even with the highest technology nowadays, we still can't make a robot that looks exactly like a human. It could also lead to the psychological problem called the Terror Valley Effect, which states the more it's like human, the more we'll be scared of it," Chai said. "You might say we're having fun talking to Chat GPT, but it's always better to stay with someone who is able to have different emotions."
The two top winners will get a free ticket to a Chinese-English summer camp, to take a journey presented by Royal Canin, explore Royal Canin's premium factory to learn more about our passion for pets.
Some of the winning articles will be published in Shanghai Daily.
The judges said they were impressed by students' imaginations of the future.
"All your insight, observation, and imagination have surprised me," Liu Qi, Shanghai Daily deputy editor-in-chief, told the contestants.
"High-tech and pet-friendly have been two of the hottest topics nowadays. With all the different technology changing our daily life, I was touched to hear the students talking about the real love between human beings that we really need to treasure," Liu shared. "I hope they can use their own ideas to influence the people around them, and all of society."
Lu La, executive chief editor of the Shanghai Students' Post, also said she was really impressed by their excellent performance.
"I can imagine how much time and effort they devoted to their preparation. I think they love reading and have a lot of great ideas. I think they stand out for how serious they think about the world and society, the hot issues regarding our relationship with animals and technology."
Cole Highhouse, an instructor at the School of Journalism and Communication at Shanghai International Studies University, said he was pretty impressed seeing kids giving their own opinions on technology such as AI.
"A common theme that I saw was like optimism towards AI which I think is unique, the conversation is usually pretty negative around it, so it's interesting to see more from younger people's perspectives, and how many of them were more optimistic," he said.
"Try to look at positive uses of technology or positive ways that new technologies can be incorporated into life rather than trying to push away new platforms or technologies. I'm glad to see the students are finding ways to incorporate and work with these things rather than push them away."
Ashley Li, Royal Canin China Health Affairs head, shared her company's principle of "cats and dogs first" with the students, using precise nutrition to ensure longer-term companionship between pets and their owners.
"We actively collaborate with government institutions, NGOs, and other top industry organizations, to carry out scientific education related to responsible pet ownership, and homeless pet rescue. The purpose is to establish a pet-friendly environment and improve the welfare of dogs and cats, while building a harmonious society between humans and pets."
Li encouraged all the students "to explore independently, observe the current challenges of pet living conditions deeply, and realize the importance of responsible pet ownership through their active participation.
"We hope to influence more young people as the main force to help build Shanghai as a benchmark of a 'pet-friendly city'," Li said.