Robots meet theology at Adelaide seminar

Friday, 28 January 2000

As robots become more intelligent, social and interactive, they raise intriguing questions about what it means to be human. Is there really anything "special" about us any more - anything that distinguishes us from animals and, more particularly, the emerging wave of super machines?

A visiting academic from the United States, Dr Anne Foerst, will address some of these questions at a seminar in Adelaide University on Tuesday 1 February (Room 316, Engineering and Mathematics Building, 12.30pm).

The seminar, On the Personhood of Humans and Robots - Where Theology and Engineering Meet, will be introduced by Professor Paul Davies, Visiting Professor at Imperial College, London. It will be hosted by Dr. Derek Abbott, Director of the Centre for Biomedical Engineering at Adelaide University.

Dr Foerst is director of the God and Computers project, an interdisciplinary dialogue project based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Her talk will introduce various concepts of "intelligence" in Artificial Intelligence. She will focus particularly on two robot projects, Cog and Kismet, currently being developed at MIT. The robots are part of an emerging camp of behaviour-based, biologically inspired "Embodied AI".

Dr Foerst will also introduce concepts of personhood from the Jewish and Christian perspective and examine whether insights from Embodied AI and the religious traditions can influence and enrich each other.

Dr Foerst studied theology, computer science and philosophy at the universities of Wuppertal and Bonn and received her PhD in theology from the University of Bochum. Since 1995 she has been theological adviser in the Cog-group at MIT's Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. She is also affiliated with the Center for the Study of Values in Public Life at Harvard Divinity School.

She has published numerous papers on the interaction between anthropological concepts of AI and theology and their consequences for society. She is working on an edition of her God and Computers project, published by MIT Press, and on her book, Are Our Bodies Ourselves?: Insights from Robotics and Theology with Columbia University Press.

 

Contact Details

Professor Derek Abbott
Email: dabbott@eleceng.adelaide.edu.au
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