Exploring the Human-Machine Interface

Main Characters

Let us begin by introducing the characters in this text.

Image of Bill

Bill: A computer science major at a university from Germany doing a study abroad in Taiwan. He wants to start his own computer software company, but is currently busy with an internship at a small hi-tech startup in Taipei. At times he worries about how governments and powerful corporations are increasingly controlling information. However, generally he regards this with detached resignation. Often bitingly realistic, Bill is also something of a dreamer. His imagination is rife with fantasies, but when focussing on work or study he tends to put those aside. “I am one-pointed about one thing at one time” he says, “but during the course of a single day, my focus shifts many times.” Although Bill’s parents hope he will marry and start a family soon, Bill sees no advantage to that. “I can get everything I want online,” he contends - half-realizing this is actually a myth.
Image of Nadya

Nadya: A Russian software programmer and translator who is finishing her Ph.D. in information science at a university in Taiwan. When she was younger, she also did a lot of hacking on the side. "It was exciting" she confessed, "but I can't really keep up with the game." She is honest about her limitations and dislikes idealistic-sounding claims. She also has an almost instinctive distrust of religion. “Faith is for the uneducated” she proudly asserts. However, at times her Christian mother’s voice echoes in her consciousness and she actually envies those accept the simplicity of a Grand Narrative. While sober, Nadya tries to keep her personal life a secret. She does not like other people knowing about her intimate details. After a few drinks, and with some nice jazz music, however, she opens up and is more forthcoming. The best thing about Nadya is that she can laugh at herself. She readily concedes that her life has been a series of magnificent follies.
Image of Liao

Liao: Many years ago he started an educational software company in Taiwan, but now is semi-retired. His company is being run by his son, who often has very different business ideas. Although Liao was one of the pioneers of information technology in Taiwan, he often feels like a fossil and is increasingly unable to keep on top of the field. "Soon no human will be able to keep on top of things. Technology is now too complex and rapidly evolving. Only computers systems will be able to actually understand many of the most recent developments,” he mused. Seeing the dehumanising nature of the contemporary world, at times Liao feels tempted to embrace traditional religion. He received a Jesuit education and admits there are some things about Christianity he admires. However, part of his brain is too “scientific” to embrace any religious mythos.
Image of Gus

Gus: Gus is a mult-talented and multi-lingual university drop out and long time friend of Liao. He is one quarter Japanese, one quarter Brazilian, one quarter Indonesian, and one quarter Isbukun Bunun (a Taiwanese idignenous group), A nerd who is uncertain what to do with his life, Gus feels quite certain that he loves Nadya. Unfortunately, it is a one-way emotion and Gus is too socially inept to really sort things through. He works part time at the same company as Nadya and Liao, but actually dreams of creating his own animated comic series. This seems unlikely to happen, however, because he spends far too much time on online games. “I am probably net-addicted,” he concedes. However, he also tells himself that if a “real human” would ever accept him, he would not spend so much time online.