On Thursday, September 14 at 7:00 pm in Sussman Theater (Olmsted Center), Robert Geraci, Professor of Religious Studies at Manhattan College and author of Temples of Modernity: Nationalism, Hinduism, and Transhumanism in South Indian Science (Lexington, 2018) and Apocalyptic AI: Visions of Heaven in Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and Virtual Reality (Oxford, 2012), will speak on “Saffron Singularity: The Global Circulation of Transhumanist Narratives.”
“Saffron Singularity: The Global Circulation of Transhumanist Narratives”: The importance of how we talk about science is often overshadowed by the outcomes of scientific research. Technologies loom in the environment and, it would appear, speak for themselves. But technological development is the result of human intentions, and the stories that we tell ourselves are an important part of scientific and technological progress: the stories help shape our worldviews, our priorities, and our politics. What we hear about AI, presently fueled by advances like generative AI and predictive texts like Dall-E and ChatGPT, is about employment, profit, and global power. It is also, perhaps surprisingly, religious. The religious promises of AI are part of a transhumanist project over a century old, in which AI has become a central technology for the development of immortal human-machine hybrids and for the next stage in cosmic evolution (often called the Singularity). These narratives draw on western religious ideas, but are now circulating across different cultural spaces, where they can be altered and reimagined, creating a global set of AI narratives. In India, the rapid proliferation of AI narratives has sparked new ways of thinking about traditional myths and gods, and these new religious ideas could well impact the development of transhumanist philosophy and even technological progress in the future.
Robert M Geraci is professor of religious studies and faculty director for veteran success at Manhattan College. He is the author of Apocalyptic AI: Visions of Heaven in Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and Virtual Reality (Oxford 2010), Virtually Sacred: Myths and Meaning in World of Warcraft and Second Life (Oxford 2014), Temples of Modernity: Nationalism, Hinduism, and Transhumanism in South Indian Science(Lexington 2018), and Futures of Artificial Intelligence: Perspectives from India and the U.S. (Oxford 2022). He has been a visiting researcher at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute, the Indian Institute of Science, and the National Institute for Advanced Studies in Bangalore, India. His research has been supported by the US National Science Foundation, the Republic of Korea National Research Foundation, the American Academy of Religion, and two Fulbright-Nehru research awards, and he is a Fellow of the International Society for Science and Religion. He enjoys hiking, kayaking, and Dungeons & Dragons.
Please see below for an audio recording of the lecture along with a video recording of its powerpoint.
And here you can view Dr. Seth Villegas’s response to Dr. Geraci’s lecture: