I see advances in artificial intelligence and robotics as one of the greatest challenges that will face the human race in the coming decades. As technology advances it raises the age-old question of ‘What does it mean to be human?’, but in new and surprising ways. What will it mean it be human in a world of intelligent machines. And if the machines can take over most of the roles and tasks which we thought were uniquely human, ‘What are human beings for?’ A significant part of my work today revolves around addressing these challenges and beginning to think about how to respond to the big questions posed to us in this age of technology.
Historically, there were three types of beings — animals, humans, and machines — and they were seen as entirely separate. But the boundaries between these concepts are increasingly being blurred. Are we nothing more than machines made out of meat, as the robotics pioneer Marvin Minsky put it?
I co-lead a research project entitled ‘Human identity in an age of nearly-human machines’ at the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion. Our research focuses on examining the complex social, ethical, philosophical and theological questions posed by advanced AI and robotics and the increasingly realistic simulation of human emotions and intelligent behaviour by sophisticated software.
In 2021, I co-edited a book called The Robot Will See You Now which brought together an array of academics, theologians and other experts to consider how the rise of AI might affect society, and how Christians can respond and flourish in the midst of this rapid change.
You can see documents, talks, videos and other resources I have uploaded on this topic below:
- Briefing: AI and digital technologies
- Seminar series: The beginning of life, the inner life, the artificial life, and the end of life
- Podcasts: Coronavirus and technology
- Podcast: Social media and free speech -Fake news, Facebook’s ‘Supreme Court’, the Capitol riot and YouTube algorithms
- Book review: The Technological Singularity, by Murray Shanahan
- Talk: The robots are coming!
- Podcast: The Robot Will See You Now – Human uniqueness, AI musicians, surveillance capitalism and ditching Google
- Lecture: Theological and ethical reflections on AI
- Book review: The Technology Trap, by Carl Benedikt Frey
- Article: Simulation and simulacra
- Book review: Hello World, by Hannah Fry
- Podcast: Simulation- Deep fakes, image as sacrament, David Beckham in Mandarin and therapy chatbots
- Book review: Life 3.0, by Max Tegmark
- Article: Artificial intelligence and simulated relationships
Human identity and personhood
- Talk: Science, modernity and the post-human
- Interview: Personhood and artificial intelligence
- Talk: Is a difference between the human brain and an advanced robot?
- Lecture: Being human in an age of nearly-human machines
- Essay: How technology changes the way we understand our humanity
- Talk: Being human in a technological world
Technology in medicine
- Lecture: Could a robot ever have a genuine human identity?
- Interview: Can we manufacture true intimacy?
- Book review: Alone Together, by Sherry Turkle
- Talk and discussion: Robots, humans and the ethics of artificial intelligence
I also regularly speak at conferences, universities and churches on this theme – have a look at my events page to find out if I am due to speak near you. If you would like to book me to speak at your event, please don’t hesitate to get in touch here.