Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity​
TWCF Number
Project Duration
August 1 / 2017
- July 31 / 2019
Core Funding Area
Big Questions
Amount Awarded

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John Cornwell
Institution The Master or Keeper and Fellows and Scholars of Jesus College Cambridge

Artificial intelligence is often regarded as a solely scientific enterprise. The rapid growth of machine learning has the potential to change this, challenging human self-understanding and its articulation by the humanities and religious traditions.

John Cornwell seeks to strengthen the interactions between machine learning proponents and their counterparts in the humanities and religious traditions. To do this, his project will hold a series of three interdisciplinary, invitation-only conferences at Jesus College, Cambridge over a period of two years. The conference series aims to ensure that the resources of the humanities and of religious traditions will bear on future developments in artificial intelligence. It also seeks to expose those in the humanities and religious traditions to the rapidly advancing field of machine learning so that they can better understand the possible implications of artificial intelligence for human flourishing.

Conference 1—"Who's Afraid of the Super-Machine? AI Sci-Fi in Film and Literature"
By exploring fictional narratives in which machine learning looms large, the first conference will explore what we can learn about ourselves as human beings in relation to artificial intelligence.

Conference 2—"The Singularity Summit: Imagination, Memory, Consciousness, Agency, Values"
The second conference takes some of the central concepts in artificial intelligence (such as those named in the conference title) and scrutinizes them from perspectives in the humanities and religious traditions.

Conference 3—Two Fundamental Questions
Finally, the third conference will investigate two central questions: Will advances in machine intelligence enhance or diminish our moral or spiritual selves? Will these advances create better or worse societies? The purpose of this final conference is to look at the possible impact of machine learning on such notions as the soul, religious faith, religious practice, and virtues.

Essay Collections
This project will also produce a series of three edited collections of essays by leading experts in the fields discussed at the conferences. These books will encourage dialogue in these diverse fields long after the conferences themselves have concluded.


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