Public Interview for Philosophie magazine (France)


Questions for a portray in Philosophie magazine :

  1. Andrey Tang, a preliminary question on the protocol of this interview. Anyone who wants to interview you as Minister has to follow rules of transparency : questions submitted before, audio recording and public transcript of the interview, etc. Before we start this interview, could you tell us the reasons of such a protocol. At the end of the protocol, it is said that any remark of one of your interlocutor would “intend to influence a decision” would be rejected as lobbying and submitted for registration to the Department of Civil Service Ethics. Does the ideal of transparency signify that a Minister will no long accept to be confronted to people who want to influence him – which was one of the main matter of politics until now ?

  2. You are born in 1981 in Taiwan. Self-educated, informatics programmer and start-up creator, your retired from the private professional life a few years ago and engaged yourself in the civic life, participating actively to the Sunflower Student Movement and joining the Government of as Minister in charge of developing the digital policy. Could you present your-self to the french readers : your personal, intellectual and professional itinerary? What was your familial background ? What kind of education did you receive ? How did you become, so early, interested in Informatics and Internet ?

  3. You passed some of your childhood in Europe, at the boundary between France and Luxembourg. And your father was at that time searcher, specialist of the Tienanmen movement. How did it influenced you ?

  4. It looks like you were naturally attracted by programming – at the age of 8 ! What attracted you initially in programming computers ? You said that « programming has immediately been for me a way to think ». What does it mean ?

  5. You quit school very early, at twelve, and decided to educate your-self thanks to the Open source and the Web, by reading papers that were circulating between scientifics, but also by reading and exchanging with some intellectuals and philosophers. What were the philosophers that interested you ? Apparently, one of them was Douglas Hofstader, the author of Gödel, Escher, Bach : an Eternal Golden Braid. How did you get in touch with him ? What was the nature of your exchanges ? What did you learn from him ?

  6. « When I arrived on Internet, did you say, I was interested by computationnal langages, that is to say to make understand to computers the human langage et to program, which is the reverse : to make understand to humans how computers are programmed ». Could you explain that sentence which let us think that there is a sort of communication and mutual understanding to establish between two living creatures, man and computers…

  7. You have been advisor for big companies of the Silicon Valley, as Apple. What was your job for them ?

  8. Before joining the Government, you defined yourself as a « civic hacker ». What is a « civic hacker » ?

  9. The Sunflower Movement was initiated to oppose a commercial agreement with China, that had been elaborated without consulting people and by supposing it was too complicated for the people to intervene. In response, young people occupy the Parliament for 20 days. And in the same time you participated to the elaboration of a new digital and political instrument called What was it ? Is it still working ? More generally, do you think that the digital revolution should transform politics so to consult people on every decision at any time ? Isn’t it contrary to the idea of a political elected government taking the responsibility to exercise the will of a majority ? In the Sunflower Movement, isn’t the articulation between the physical occupation of a political space, as the Parliament, and the constitution of a new digital and non-territorial space that was decisive ?

  10. You insist on the fact that in Taiwan, Internet arrived in the same time as democracy. Beside the historical link, what is the philosophical link between the two universe ? Do you think that Internet has a political form implemented in it : that the web is a new way to connect individuals and people, knowledge and opinions, powers and counter-powers, that has a political meaning ? If it is so, how do you explain that Internet did not change fundamentally the political situation in China where we could have hoped that it would bring more liberties, more individual rights, and - why not - the end of the totalitarian system ?

  11. To think the Internet, you use often architectural metaphors. In substance, your say « You don’t need to be a professional architect to participate to the construction of that new space. You are back to the anonymous collective construction of the Cathedral. ». But in the same time, you say that hackers are like « lumberjacks » or « cabinetmakers » that can « hack their own wood » and « build their own furniture and houses ». Those two images are powerful but somehow opposite : for the first, Internet is a public and collective construction, for the second one, a multitude of singular spaces contiguous one to another. Could you precise the sense of those images and your conception of the web as a new social architecture ?

  12. You define yourself politically as a « conservative anarchist ». What does-it mean ? In history, anarchist were fighting to destroy the existence of the State as such and ready to use violence for that. Is it your goal too ? And how is this goal compatible with the conservation of the ancient world, which is the goal of a conservative person ?
    When you say that Internet is an « anarchist space » that put an end to hierarchy and power, isn’t it an Utopia. After all, in the real Internet, there is a lot of powers and controls : economical, cultural, political, ideological ?

  13. What is your job as Minister in charge of the digital affairs in the Taiwan government ? How politics can participate to improve the numeric world ?

  14. Taiwan plans to become the Asian « Silicon Valley », specially dedicated to the Internet of Things. What is it ? And what are your vision on it ?

  15. In Taiwan, as in France, it looks like the political life is no more centered around the parties. Do you think that we live at the end of the political party politics ? And is it one of the effect of Internet ?

  16. Following to you, Internet could renew the democracy on the base of consensus, versus the old majority vs minority model. How come ?

  17. Your have always been interested by artificial intelligence, and particularly to the political use of artificial intelligence, as by example with the program Polis that allow to ameliorate artificially political debates What is it ? And it looks like for you, in the future robots will not take the place of human, but collaborate with them. How do you see that collaboration ?

  18. Do you conceive that for some people Internet is not a chance, but a fear : the fear to destroy the literacy, the fear to destroy profound attentions of the young generations, the fear of the uberisation of the economy, etc. You speak about the uberisation as a an « epidemic phenomena » that needs to be treated with new « digital vaccines ». And you give the example of the reaction of Taiwan against Uber, where after a protest, the island has develop a deliberative reaction associating drivers and passengers. Is it the idea that democratic alternative local platform could take the place of global, private, capitalistic platform ?

  19. Taiwan has a special political status. It’s an independent territory that pretend to be the independant Republic of China but that is considered by China as part of the Popular Républic of China. Can we consider that this « para-« or « post-etatic » condition is one of the reason why the Web, which is also « post-etatic », had such an influence on the island ? In the other side, is that post-etatic condition not too specific to draw general political conclusions that would not true for other societies, still attached to the State model?

  20. A last personal question : you are a transgender : you were born man, your name was Autrijus and become Audrey in 2005 at the age of 24. How did you experience that sexual and existential transformation ? And does it change something in your social and political life, to be the first transgender Minister in the world ?


Excellent questions. Before answering, a quick note on question #1. Note the protocol says:

such remarks shall be rejected as stipulated in Article 15 of the Lobbying Act,
be submitted for registration with the Executive Yuan’s Department of Civil Service Ethics afterwards.

So lobbying is still possible, but recorded in a radically transparent way and reviewed by the Ethics Department.

  1. The radical transparency protocol reflects the idea of “not having any meeting go to waste”. By having each meeting recorded, and having the camera representing the stakeholders that couldn’t make it here today, it ensures a continuity of conversation — for example…

  2. …this has been explored in detail in the interviews with Amaëlle Guiton

  3. …and with Kevin Peraino

  4. …and with Max Kalkhof

  5. I became aware of the Free Software movement and its thinkers quite early on: Richard Stallman and Larry Wall were particularly influential. I emailed him with my translation of Carol Hofstadter’s translation of “Ma mignonne”. I was surprised when he wrote back to correct my Pinyin (Mandarin romanization). I learned quite a bit about strange loops.

  6. I was indeed interested by computational linguistics (machine understanding human language) and programming languages (human understanding machine language). To me, the computational instrument has logic as its notes; and interactive spaces its melodies.

  7. I worked with Apple on natural language processing, cloud service localization, and open-source technologies, as described in the interview with Maxime Vatteblé

  8. …and with Nicola Smith

  9. …and with Eileen Wagner — yes, it’s still working.

𝄓 so far the answers are about the past and we move on to the present.