Shenzhen's sci-fi drama 'primed for more growth'

Writer: Zhang Yu  |  Editor: Zhang Chanwen  |  From: Shenzhen Daily  |  Updated: 2023-03-23

How will the relationship between humans and the virtual world develop? What drastic social changes will occur in the future? Will the accelerating development of emerging technologies be misplaced and out of control, placing humans in a predicament?

A new Chinese sci-fi drama featuring the metaverse and artificial intelligence (AI), which was co-produced by the Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) and Shenzhen University (SZU), debuted in Shenzhen on March 11.

The drama, with its screenwriters, directors, actors and stage managers all hailing from Shenzhen, is the city’s first original sci-fi philosophical drama, according to the producers.

A scene from "Yunshen."

Set in the year of 2050, the drama “Yunshen” portrays a society with a highly developed metaverse and digital twin technologies, where people can create personalized avatars in the “cloud” to assist them with daily tasks.

The four protagonists gradually discover that their fates are closely related to digital twins and the law of the metaverse, and they have even been involved in a crisis that would affect the future of all humanity.

“I think the drama is not only trying to convey to the audience how fast technologies are developing, but also to provoke thoughts about how we co-exist with AI if the latter can think like humans and create consciousness,” Hu Jiayuan, who stars in the drama and is currently an intern at Shenzhen Daily, said in an interview Thursday.

Hu Jiayuan (L) during the debut of the sci-fi drama “Yunshen” in Shenzhen on March 11. Courtesy of the interviewee

The 22-year-old is a senior majoring in performing arts at SZU’s College of Theater, Film and Television. The college’s Class of 2023 performing arts major all took part in the performance.

The drama’s debut was well received by the audience, according to Hu. “I heard that all the tickets were sold out less than five minutes after the tickets were made available. My parents also came to the show, and they told me that most of the audience watched the drama very attentively.”

In her opinion, Shenzhen’s sci-fi drama shows great promise. “I think it is primed for more growth and will become more popular in the future. The combination of science fiction and drama is intriguing, and it can reveal so many things.”

The drama “Yunshen” also reflects many of the city’s idiosyncrasies. Shenzhen is a fast-paced city, and the rhythm of the entire drama is also very fast, according to Hu.

“The actors also have different characteristics. For example, some of them are determined, confident, inclusive and open-minded. I think these words reflect very well the traits of Shenzhen,” she said.

The play was written by Chen Yuehong, dean of SUSTech’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Wu Yan, science fiction writer and director of SUSTech’s Research Center for Science and Human Imagination, and Yin Di, associate professor at SZU’s College of Theater, Film and Television.