Religion and Society

What Does it Mean to be Human? Ghost and Machine.
  Date:  January 25, 2019  Time:  7:00 PM Location:  Convocation Hall on the U of T campus

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Geordie Rose, Julien Musolino and Michael Murray discuss artificial intelligence, cognitive science and the implications they have on the question of "what it means to be human?" 

What does it mean to be human? J. Wentzel van Huysteen, in his Gifford lectures, posed the question of whether or not we are alone in the world?” With advances in artificial intelligence and increasing knowledge in the cognitive sciences, the lines that have traditionally defined human uniqueness are beginning to blur.  

What constitutes our humanitythat intrinsic notion that separates us from other animals and machines, the essence that demonstratewe are more than the sum of our biological existenceis becoming less and less clear.  

In a sense, we may be witnessing the collapse of Cartesian dualism, the idea of the human being having a spirit or soul that is separate from their physical body, or what philosopher Gibert Ryle has referred to as the dogma of “the ghost in the machine.” Is there more, however? Can religious notions of the soul, mind, and body navigate these new advances in science and technology and even provide meaning and value to them, or will religious notions become obsolete? Are there limits to what AI can achieve, and limits to how science can speak to our humanity?  

David Bentley Hart has said that “rational thoughtunderstanding, intention, will, consciousnessis not a species of computation. Is there a line that, no matter the advances in technology or the passing of evolutionary time, no computer or animal will ever cross? Is it our ability to transcend our biology, to somehow rise above the fetters of our bodily existence and instincts that truly makes us human? Will machines one day rise above their programming 

What it means to be human is one of the most important and pressing questions of our day; as we learn more about our world and ourselves, the answer to this question is becoming ever more complex.  



About the Religion and Society Series

The Religion and Society Series seeks to generate critical conversations on matters of faith, society and public interest. The purpose of the series is to play a catalytic role in helping shape discourse around topics that deeply matter to individuals and society.

This evening’s discussion is being staged in the hope that a free and frank exchange of ideas will aid us all in the exploration of important questions and lead us to deeper truth.

Hosts and sponsoring organizations are committed to a manner of discourse that respects the dignity of all human beings, and do not necessarily endorse the perspectives or opinions of the speakers.

The Religion and Society Series is brought to you by:

Wycliffe College Faith Today Power to Change Ravi Zacharias International Ministries
Centre for Inquiry Canada Canadian Scientific & Christian Affiliation Network of Christian Scholars University of Toronto Secular Alliance