Good morning/afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
Consider the lowly toilet. Many of you may not think of the toilet as a form of technology if you think of toilets at all. But, it is and has contributed greatly to the improved health and overall quality of life for mankind.
On a recent trip to Japan, I was impressed by, among other things, a gadget in most public women's restrooms, called Otohime or Sound Princess. This device produces the sound of flushing water without the need for actual flushing. The technology saves the user both the embarrassment of being heard during urination and some 20 liters of water per use in cases where a woman might flush the toilet continuously while using it.
Every time I used Otohime, I felt like a princess, an environmentalist princess on the toilet.
It was a longed for feeling. Over the past decade, I shuffled in and out of many kinds of public restrooms in China--filthy smelly water closets in outlying areas, spacious luxurious lavatories in five-star hotels, forever-occupied girls' stalls on campus during school, and smart modern mobile toilets in international fairs. But not one single "room" evoked my pride of being a princess.
And I knew why the Sound Princess had. It was not because of the high technology the small bathroom boasted which is becoming ubiquitous worldwide. It was the idealism embodied in the technology that keeps reminding me that in this ever-changing world, I am a responsible and dignified human being even when sitting on a toilet.
Humanism, no matter how it is defined, aims to strike a balance between us being at the mercy of nature and being too human-centered. In my case, I haven't relieved myself under a tree for a while. I am a proud, dutiful Chinese citizen. Gone are the days when people just found a corner to do their business resulting in poor sanitation and threats to public health. The Otohimetechnology renders me two warnings: First, I am a humble human being with an obligation to save not only my face but also natural resources. Second, there is still a long way to go in my own country not just in developing technology and the economy, but also in upholding human dignity and promoting human welfare. Take the toilet: Dirty, crowdedtoilets shall, at least, give way to clean, human-friendly ones.
Fortunately, I have seen improvements. At Shanghai World Expo 2010, 8,000 toilets, all modern and technologically sophisticated, were installed across the site. What really delighted the visitors, however, was the user-friendly design and services. Toilets were situated every 100 meters. Several hundred volunteers served as toilet guides and sanitation workers. The ratio of female to male toilet space was set at 2.5 to 1. Soft music was played in the toilets. All this seems to celebrate the glory of comprehensive humanism.
Ladies and gentlemen, science and technology are here to improve earthly life and maximize human happiness. When our world benefits from technology, coupled with human considerations, we are bound to enjoy our life. Conversely, we suffer.
The toilet is a piece of sanitaryware and the quintessence of humanism that underlies technological innovation. Like GNP, employment rates, and space exploration efforts, the lowly equipment is an equally important measure of a progressive society. When on a toilet if we feel like a princess, we shall be proud of living in a society that values humanity. If not, we must stand up and make some changes.
And if you are still baffled with what I have said, I suggest you take off right now and go experience the bathrooms in this auditorium, because they are what makes our life beautiful or ugly, humanism considered or ignored.