A Series of Conversations Focused on Transhumanism

Two Unitarian Universalist members of AI and Faith’s Communications Team have launched a web platform to help UU congregations address the wide range of issues raised by technologies that increasingly link AI and the brain.

Dan Forbush, a member of the UU Congregation of Saratoga Springs, and Ron Roth, who sits on the board of the UU Fellowship of Boca Raton, have launched AI and the Human to support these conversations. To begin, they’re hosting experts in the AI and Faith community in a series they call “Transhumanism Explained and Explored.”

James Hughes has noted that, as humanists, UUs intuitively understand that we’re called to be co-creators of our future,” said Forbush. “We see no God-created limits on human creativity and we profoundly respect the interdependent web of all existence.”

Each month, Dan and Ron invite UU congregations and AI and Faith members to a 60-minute conversation in Zoom focused on ten questions we’ll review with the expert in advance,” he continued. “We’ll transcribe the conversation with Trint and publish an edited transcript on AI and the Human.”

Demonstrating their approach, Dan and Ron have posted their recent conversation with Levi Checketts, assistant professor of religion and philosophy at Hong Kong Baptist University and a networking representative for AI and Faith.

These are the questions they asked him.

These are the responses he provided, ranging over such topics as the need for “epistemic humility” in the AI discussion, why we should not regard AI as any form of “supreme intelligence,” and transhumanism as religion. Levi defines transhumanism as the “idea of self-directed evolution through science and technology.”

As an encouragement to read the interview at ‘AI and the Human’ consider how Levi sums up his view of the conversation across faith and secular AI ethics that AI and Faith is seeking to foster:

“In a talk hosted here at Hong Kong Baptist University a few months age, an AI researcher . . . explained everything through the lens of computer programing. It was very shocking to me because he talked about religions as ‘operating systems.’ I thought, “That’s an interesting metaphor.” It makes sense, but it shortchanges the experience of religion. It tells the believer who has an experience of God, or a relationship with God, that the relationship is only a particular frame and not their experience of being in the world made by God.

“We need to have these conversations in a way that allows for epistemic humility. That means understanding that this very complicated and very intense work.

“What I hope happens is that these conversations begin to take place in a way that nobody thinks of themselves as the smartest person in the room. That’s challenging because we all want to assume that we have expertise in something, and we do. But we have expertise that’s different from each other’s and there are different ways of knowing.

“AI researchers need to understand that theologians have a world view about what is valuable for human beings. Theologians and religious people need to understand that AI isn’t the Terminator. It’s not God coming in. It is very intelligent and we all need to understand what it does and doesn’t do. That’s a big challenge for religious thinkers.

“It will help to achieve a better understanding of our own limitations. This will both dispel some of the fear surrounding AI and also give AI researchers and evangelists an understanding of their own limitations and what their technology is good for and what it’s maybe not good for.”

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