The fashion of Fuzzy A.I.

As a literature grad, I didn’t expect to understand much when Marie showed me a slide or two from her Artificial Intelligence lectures. But this really takes the biscuit:

‘Fuzzification function?’ Seriously? Is this science, or a conference for sufferers of myopia? Putting my ignorance and incredulity aside for a moment, Marie tells me that A.I., her major, is what’s known as a 热门 (re men) or ‘hot subject’: i.e. one in great demand and with good prospects upon graduation. A 冷门 (leng men, ‘cold subject’), in comparison, would offer no immediate job prospects. (Like, for instance … literature.)

Marie’s parents chose A.I. as her major (no doubt because of its ‘heat’), but Marie isn’t happy. Her dislike of the subject has a lot to do with the ten-hour a day workload, and the fact that she doesn’t enjoy maths – though I’m a little Fuzzy about the details. Ever since year one, she’s been toying with the idea of switching to law or, yes, literature. (Marie too loves ‘Gone with the Wind’, and is currently listening to an English language audio tape of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ which is read, for some unfathomable reason, in a Southern US accent.) But now she’s in her fourth and final year, and it’s too late to do anything about it.

Marie is the only of my Beida friends – and I may well be wrong – who I see as studying purely for the post-graduation opportunities (the dream is to either work in Hong Kong or study in Paris), with no love of the learning itself. So, she throws herself into her other interests (no boyfriend to otherwise distract her). One, as I’ve mentioned before, is sex-jazz dancing – she still goes to classes twice weekly, near Beijing’s ancient Drum Tower. Another is improving her English: hence the Jane-Austen-meets-Texas-ranger audio tape. A third is dressing prettily. Here’s a picture from last time I invited her to eat lunch at Tsinghua:

I’ve never written about youth fashion on this blog. A major reason is that my own interest in fashion extends to finding a pair of socks in China that fit my feet (no luck yet), but no further. And I won’t start now, having just admitted my utter lack of qualifications to. But I will observe that for the most part, clothes on campus at Beida and Tsinghua (especially Tsinghua) mean jeans and a top, or occasionally a pair of extra fluffy earmuffs for girls. It really is homogenous.

So I would venture that Marie, and others like her (for instance, this girl I talked with in Beida’s coffee shop for enoVate) are exceptions in that they evidently pay attention to dressing nicely. I asked Marie how much she and her friends spent on clothes a month. About 200 kuai (a little under £20, in a very cheap clothes market) was her estimate; they shop for Western brand names but Chinese copies of them, as the originals are too pricey. I think I’ll ask her to look for socks for me.