If you’re still wondering if Artificial Intelligence and Martial arts belong on the same table together, here’s a picture of MIT’s Machine Learning guru Lex Friedman (who is himself a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt) hanging out with combat sports legends Roger Gracie, Renzo Gracie and John Danaher.
And while they may cause some confusion among the uninitiated, in reality there’s nothing new to that combo. Science and fighting have been knitted tightly together through the entire history of humanity. And I’d say more: the third leg holding this plan together is often magic.
In isolation, those themes don’t seem to belong anywhere together. Especially when we fall for stereotypes like the the loopy mystic, the musclehead fighter and the nerdy scientist.
But in reality, those worlds overlap not only in their pursuits and stories, but also through their people and ideas.
It shouldn’t have been a surprise when, while writing The Girl from Wudang, it seemed so easy to interpolate my conversations with scientists like the founder of MIT’s MediaLab, prof Nicholas Negroponte, or Berkeley and Stanford superstar Cognitive Sciences professor Paul Li (a Thai Boxer himself), with my interviews with fighters like Gabi Garcia and Kyra Gracie; and then with philosophical teachings from icons like Bruce Lee and my visit to Modern day Tai Chi schools in the Wudang Mountains, in China. Now it makes sense that my research mixed articles on internal alchemy, videogame ethics, generative adversarial networks and neuroplasticity. How my training in animal styles of kung fu, karate and Jiu jitsu could link to my adventures in religion and my time as a computer programmer.
At first, it bothered me, I confess. whenever I told friends about the story I was writing, they stared back as if I was crazy. Maybe because they picked on my reticence too.
Not now. 300 pages in, the end properly typed and manuscript delivered to the publisher, I am absolutely confident that the tale I wanted to tell is there. A story that clashes the past, the future and the timeless, through their most compatible actors ever: magic, science, and violence.