5/11: Jon Bialecki, “Sexbots Playing the Imitation Game: Mormonism, Transhumanism, and the Turing Test as Trolley Prize”

On May 11, from 7:00–8:30pm in the Reading Room of Cowles Library, we host the third lecture of the semester, “Sexbots Playing the Imitation Game: Mormonism, Transhumanism, and the Turing Test as Trolley Prize,” by Jon Bialecki, Lecturer in Anthropology, University of California-San Diego. 

Jon Bialecki, J.D., 1997, Ph.D., is a continuing lecturer in the UCSD department of anthropology. His first monograph, A Diagram for Fire: Miracles and Variation in an American Charismatic Movement, is a study of the miraculous and differentiation in American religion, with a focus on ethics, politics, language, and economic practices; it was awarded the 2017 Sharon Stephens Prize by the American Ethnological Society and Honorable Mention in the 2018 Clifford Geertz Prize by the Society for the Anthropology of Religion. A second book, Machines for Making Gods: Mormonism, Transhumanism, and Worlds Without End, addresses religious transhumanism, and was published 2022 by Fordham University Press.

With recent public attention to advancements in generative text programs such as Chat-GPT and Bing/Sydney, the ‘Turing Test’ has returned as an object of discussion. What these discussions, mostly centered around anxieties concerning whether these artificial intelligences are sentient, obscure is the fact that the Turing Test is not just an answer to the question as to whether “machines can really think.” The Turing Test is also implicitly a test of what moral obligation we may owe an artificial intelligence. This talk lays bare this aspect of the Turing Test through a presentation of Mormon transhumanists’ debates regarding (admittedly hypothetical) sexbots and similar artificial life forms; Mormon Transhumanists tend to be sharply opposed to the creation of such entities — but not for the reasons that one might expect.

Here is a recording of Prof. Bialecki’s lecture:

And here is a video recording of Seth Villegas’s response to Dr. Bialecki:

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