Monday, July 23, 2012

Apocalyptic AI

Tuesday the 24th

Geraci, "Apocalyptic AI"
   Robert Geraci is the foremost scholar artificial intelligence and religion.  In this essay he analyzes how contemporary AI plays with typical apocalyptic themes.  Read this article first, since it offers an academic's overview of the AI movement.

Kurzweil, "And Bodies," The Age of Spiritual Machines
   In this chapter from his popular book, futurist Ray Kurzweil explores the future of human bodies and posits   a specifically religious part of the brain.  This text is a blend of scholarship, speculation, philosophy, and religion.  As you read it, think about how you are reacting to Kurzweil's ideas and writing style.

Two YouTube Videos

In this recent PBS News Hour interview, Kurzweil discusses the relationship between human bodies and machines.

This trailer is for an adaptation of Kurzweil's most recent book of predictions.  Note the mixed genres.

RP 3b due
   If you didn't write a paper for Monday, you can turn one in for Tuesday's class on the following prompt:

Summarize and analyze at least 2 of the similarities that Geraci draws between contemporary AI enthusiasts and Jewish and Christian apocalypticism.  What are some of the reasons for these similarities?  Do you think Kurzweil is a kind of religious figure?

Looking forward to your comments!


  1. Ray-Ray forgets to make the distinction between therapeutic and augmentational implantation. Parkinson’s sufferers absolutely NEED (and should have) a neural electro-stimulator to compensate for their brain’s inability to regulate itself. Twelve-year-olds DO NOT NEED an xbox9000 hardwired into their brains. Most of the questions and suspicions I would raise are the use and regulation of these implants. Will the twelve-year-olds be taught to read and write or will education focus instead on Mario-Kart? How far will this supplantation of reality go? When do we become the batteries for a universe of robots?
    Also, is it such a bad thing? Is reality really all that real, anyway?

  2. I thought the trailer for Kurzweil's recent book was really interesting. The idea that technology is going to take over the world, and that one day humans and technology will not even be two different things is crazy. While i think technology is important and vital to our world in order to make advancements (i.e cure for cancer) i think some of it is just unnecessary. A lot of these inventions etc, encourage us to be lazy and dependent on outside sources not ourselves. You can do almost anything from your chair if you have a computer - order groceries, clothing, go to the movies, food, banking etc. I think we've become too reliant on all of it.

  3. The inherent possibilities that come along with humanity merging themselves with technology are... innumerable. Cures for disease, enhanced abilities, improved intellect,enhanced senses, and even immortality... are all achievable. Obviously, this is a technology that needs to be pursued, but I find some faults with the predictions made by the Apocalyptic AI supporters, and I think they should be evaluated. They discuss cyborgs and enhanced humans, but it appears to me that they exist as an attempt to catch up to intelligent machines, not as an attempt to improve our own bodies for the sake of it... I, and many transhumanists I'm certain will agree with me, believe that cyborgs and technologically enhanced humans will become the norm far before intelligent machines, and indeed much effort is being made towards this process. In addition, the certainty that Geraci addresses these matters with is more than a little disconcerting, in my opinion, and a tad too certain. I believe that Geraci needs to leave a measure of doubt in his hypothesis, given the nature of the future to defy our expectations and make fools of our predictions. The implications carried within are of grave importance however, and it very well may hold the key to uniting the religious and the non-religious.

    1. "Transhumanist", I like that word. I Googled "Technical Man" and it came back as Homo Technicus in Latin, which apparently is the word already used in academic and futurist lingo for our new evolutionary status. Whats really interesting to me is the fact that we'll be able to pinpoint the time and place that our new branch begun. Not only do we know the time, we also have visual and technical records of how it happened and what started it.

  4. Both Geraci and Kurzweils reads were very good reads but i found a problem with both. But before that i just wanted to point out that they make good observations and theories on the future of humanity. Geraci's study on the AI and how it relates to apocalyptic themes...the correlations were very interesting. (though in my opinion not the same and to prove my point would be to long so i'll wait till class) and the ideas and proof behind Kurzweil's short stories is really good (and funny). But the problem i have with these readings is how little they think of humans as a whole. I felt belittled and almost irrelevant. Like we are so pathetic as a species that robotics and AI is the only way to go. Whats the point if we forget that we ARE human?

  5. This singularity theory is really interesting and I'm so excited to see how this will play out in my
    Iifetime. I think this abundance of technology and information may take us away from our spiritual element. Who would want to go to church any more if you already think you know everything and you could poof off to a much more fun virtual world. Of course I guess there will be people who could recreate the mega church online. Where people of the whole world really could come to one virtual place for worship.

    Michael MCCarthy