Webinar Series “Artificial Intelligence and Religion – AIR2020/21” | Sep 2020 – Apr 2021

16 September 2020 — 21 April 2021

The biweekly webinars will explore current interactions between research and innovation in artificial intelligence (AI) on the one hand, religious communities, institutions, practices, precepts, beliefs, and rites on the other. The series will bring together speakers from AI, religious studies, anthropology, economics, legal studies, philosophy, and sociology. It is structured into three thematic sections:
(A) Sociological, Anthropological and Religious Studies Approaches to AI and Religion,
(B) Utopian and Dystopian Techno-Futures: AI, Transhumanism, and Religion,
(C) Values and AI: Machines, Ethics, and Religion.

For the programme of the series, speaker bios and abstracts, please visit the AIR2020/21 web site.

Free registration required.

(A) Sociological, Anthropological and Religious Studies Approaches to AI and Religion

(1) Wednesday, 16 September 2020, 4:00 PM – 5:30 PM CEST
Yaqub Chaudhary (Cambridge Muslim College): Interacting with and within the Artificial  (abstract)
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(2) Wednesday, 30 September 2020, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM CEST
Beth Singler (Cambridge University): “Blessed by the Algorithm”: Religious Conceptions of AI and Their Impact on Society  (abstract)
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(3) Wednesday, 14 October 2020, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM CEST
Stef Aupers (KU Leuven): “Things Greater than Thou”: AI and a Technical Re-enchantment of the World  (abstract)
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(4) Wednesday,  4 November 2020, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM CET | New date!

Lionel Obadia (University of Lyon 2 and French National Research Agency): Magic of AI, AI for magic? Magical thinking practices and digital Age: Remarks for an opening field of study (abstract)

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(5) Wednesday,  11 November 2020, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM CET

Inken Prohl (University of Heidelberg):  Algorithms as Formations Analogous to Religion: Discourses and Materialities (abstract)

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(6) Wednesday,  25 November 2020, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM CET

Erica Baffelli, (University of Manchester); The Android and the Fax: AI and Buddhism in Contemporary Japan (abstract)

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(B) Utopian and Dystopian Techno-Futures: AI, Transhumanism, and Religion

(7) Wednesday,  9 December 2020, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM CET

Oliver Krüger (University of Fribourg): God, the Singularity and the Transcendent Superintelligence: Philosophical Contexts of the Transhumanist Utopia

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(8) Wednesday, 13 January 2021, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM CET

Robert Geraci (Manhattan College): Technological Give-and-Take: Religions of AI in Indian Science and Engineering

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(9) Wednesday, 27 January 2021, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM CET

Zachary Calo (Hamad Bin Khalifa University): Human Dignity after the Human

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(10) Wednesday, 10 February 2021, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM CET
Nachum Dershowitz (Tel Aviv University): Morality and AI

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(11) Wednesday, 24 February 2021, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM CET

Dominik Balazka (State University of Milan), joint work with Dario Rodighiero (MIT and Harvard University): Was Blumer Right? Religious Values and Quantified Self in the Petabyte Age

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More episodes coming soon.

(12)  Wednesday, 10 March 2021, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM CET 

Yorick Wilks (University of Sheffield): Artificial Intelligence and Religion

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(13) Wednesday, 24 March 2021, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM CET

LeRon Shults (University of Agder): Using multi-agent AI to predict and prevent religious conflict

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FINAL EPISODE: Directions for Future Research in AI and Religion

(14) Wednesday, 21 April 2021, 4:00 PM – 5:15 PM CEST

Margherita Galassini (Independent Researcher), Robert Geraci (Manhattan College), Oliver Krüger (University of Fribourg), Massimo Leone (University of Turin), Inken Prohl (University of Heidelberg)

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The AIR2020/21 webinar series is embedded in the mission on religion and innovation of the Center for Religious Studies at Fondazione Bruno Kessler (FBK), as articulated in the Center’s 2019 position paper, and it continues our 2018/19 workshop and lecture series Religion and Innovation.
While focusing on research on AI and religion, the series is also to be seen within the context of FBK-ISR’s work on AI governance and policies, which involves extensive consultations with religious actors. In particular, FBK-ISR is currently drafting a paper in response to the public consultation on the White Paper on Artificial Intelligence, launched by the European Commission in February 2020. For an overview of FBK-ISR’s work on religion and innovation please consult our booklet Religion & Innovation at FBK.

 

Scientific Committee FBK:

  • Boris Rähme, Researcher at the Center for Religious Studies, FBK
  • Oliviero Stock, Head of the Research Area Artificial Intelligence, Center for Information and Communication Technology, FBK
  • Paolo Traverso, Director of the Center for Information and Communication Technology, FBK
  • Marco Ventura, Director of the Centre for Religious Studies, FBK

 

Past episodes

Speakers

  • Yaqub Chaudhary
    Speaker
    Cambridge Muslim College
    Yaqub Chaudhary holds a PhD in Physics from Imperial College London, where he worked on the Physics of Plastic Electronic Materials and their potential use in future types of lasers. Prior to this he studied Electronic Engineering at the same institution. As Research Fellow in Science and Religion he is reprising his long-standing interest in Artificial Intelligence and his current research project will consider recent developments in the fields of AI, cognitive science and neuroscience in connection with Islamic conceptions of the mind, intelligence, human reasoning, cognition, knowledge, the nature of perception and consciousness.
  • Beth Singler
    Speaker
    University of Cambridge
    Beth Singler is the Homerton Junior Research Fellow in Aritificial Intelligence, and she is exploring the social, philosophical, ethical, and religious implications of advances in AI and robotics from an anthropological perspective. She is also an associate research fellow at the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence where she is collaborating on the AI: Narratives and Justice project where she is bringing in social and digital anthropological perspectives to work on the impact of the accounts we give of AI. Her background is as a social anthropologist of New Religious Movements, and her monograph is the first in-depth ethnography of the Indigo Children - a New Age re-conception of both children and adults using the language of both evolution and spirituality. She has also written on the development and legitimation of other New Religious Movements and digital identities through social media and online conversations.
  • Stef Aupers
    Speaker
    KU Leuven
    Stef Aupers is professor of media culture at the Institute for Media Studies. As a cultural sociologist, he studies the role of cultural meaning in the production, textual representation and consumption of media. Stef published widely in international journals on topics like religion, modern myth, conspiracy theories and, particularly, the way these cultures are mediatized. Most of his current research projects are focussed on digital game culture.
  • Lionel Obadia
    Speaker
    University of Lyon 2 and French National Research Agency
    Lionel Obadia, Ph-D in Sociology (1997) has been associate professor in Ethnology (1998-2004) and is full professor in Anthropology (since 2004) at the University of Lyon, France. He now heads the department of Social Sciences and Humanities at the French Agency for Research (ANR). He has been teaching in other French universities (INALCO, EHESS, EPHE, SciencePo) and has been fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies of Strasbourg (France). He is specialized in anthropology of religion, Asian religions (Buddhism, shamanism, Hinduism) and Globalization, magic and modernity. He has conducted fieldworks in France, Europe, North America, Nepal, and South India. He has published 10 books, edited 17 special issues of peer-reviewed journals, and published more than 170 papers (journal articles and book chapters) in French, English, Spanish, Korean and Chinese. Selected publications: Religion et histoire globale, special issue of Diogène, n°256, 2019; Fleeting Sentiments of the Sacred, special issue of Bulletin for the Study of Religion, 2018; Global phenomena and social science (co-editor) (Springer, 2017); Religious diversity in Asia, Special issue of Approaching religion Vol 7 No 1, 2017; Experiencing religion. New approaches towards personal religiosity (co-editor) Berlin: Lit-Verlag, 2016; Satan (Paris, Ellipses, 2016); Shalom Bouddha! Bouddhisme et judaïsme, l’improbable rencontre, (Paris, Berg International, 2015); Globalization and the New Geographies of Religion, special issue of International Social Science Journal, vol 63, 2014; La marchandisation de Dieu. Economie religieuse (Paris, CNRS Editions, 2013); Anthropologie des religions (second edition, Paris, La découverte, 2012); The Economics of religion (With Don Wood) (London, Emerald, 2011); Le bouddhisme en Occident (Paris, La Découverte, 2007); La sorcellerie (Paris: Le Cavalier Bleu Editions. 2005); La religion (Paris: Le Cavalier Bleu Editions. 2004); Bouddhisme et Occident. La diffusion du bouddhisme tibétain en France (Paris: L’Harmattan, 1999)
  • Inken Prohl
    Speaker
    University of Heidelberg
    Inken Prohl is Professor of Religious Studies at Heidelberg University (since 2006). For several years she has been conducting fieldwork in Japan and Germany. Her research interests focus on modern transformations of Buddhism, approaches of ‚Material Religion’ as well as Religion and artificial intelligence. In cooperation with the project: Buddhism, Business and Believers she is currently working on new approaches to the field of Buddhism and consumption. Together with John Nelson she published the The Handbook of Contemporary Japanese Religions (Leiden: Brill 2012). Her publications also include Religiöse Innovationen: Die Shinto-Organisation World Mate in Japan (Reimer, 2005), Zen für Dummies (Wiley, 2010), “California 'Zen': Buddhist Spirituality Made in America“, in: Amerikastudien / American Studies Vol. 59, No. 2 (2014), S. 193-206 and “Aesthetics”, in: Plate, S. Brent (Hg.): Key Terms in Material Religion. London et al: Bloomsbury Academic 2015, S. 9-15.
  • Erica Baffelli
    Speaker
    University of Manchester (UK)
    Erica Baffelli is currently Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) in Japanese Studies at The University of Manchester (UK). Before arriving at Manchester in 2013 she was visiting researcher at Hosei University (Tokyo) and post-doctoral research fellow of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (2005-2007) and Lecturer/Senior Lecturer in Asian Religions at the University of Otago (New Zealand, 2007-2013). She is also the Director of the North West Consortium Doctoral Training Partnership, a consortium sponsored by the AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) of seven universities and HEIs. She is interested in religion in contemporary Japan, with a focus on groups founded from the 1970s onwards. Recent publications include: Dynamism and the Ageing of a Japanese 'New' Religion ( with Ian Reader, Bloomsbury 2019); Media and New Religions in Japan (Routledge 2016); Baffelli and Reader (eds), Aftermath: the Impact and Ramifications of the Aum Affair. Special Issue of the Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, 39 (1), 2012; and Baffelli, Reader and Staemmler (eds), Japanese Religions on the Internet: Innovation, Representation and Authority (Routledge 2011).
  • Oliver Krüger
    Speaker
    University of Fribourg
    Oliver Krüger (*1973) is professor for Religious Studies at Fribourg University (Switzerland). After finishing his Ph.D. at the University of Bonn, he did research at Heidelberg and Princeton University on Wicca resp. the US funeral culture. Krüger is specialized in the relation of media, science and religion. Major publications: Virtualität und Unsterblichkeit. Gott, Evolution und die Singularität im Post- und Transhumanismus. Freiburg 22019 (English publication forthc. 2020); Die mediale Religion. Probleme und Perspektiven religionswissenschaftlicher und wissenssoziologischer Medienforschung. Bielefeld 2012.
  • Robert Geraci
    Speaker
    Manhattan College
    Robert M Geraci is Professor and Chair of Religious Studies at Manhattan College in New York City. He is the author of Apocalyptic AI: Visions of Heaven in Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and Virtual Reality (Oxford 2010), Virtually Sacred: Myth and Meaning in World of Warcraft and Second Life (Oxford 2014), and Temples of Modernity: Nationalism, Hinduism, and Transhumanism in South Indian Science (Lexington 2018). His research has been supported by grants from the American Academy of Religion, the National Science Foundation (U.S.A.), and twice by Fulbright-Nehru Professional Excellence (Research) awards
  • Zakary Calo
    Speaker
    Hamad Bin Khalifa University
    Zachary R. Calo is Professor of Law at Hamad Bin Khalifa University. He is also Research Scholar in Law and Religion at Valparaiso University, Fellow at Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University, Visiting Professor, Faculty of Business and Law, The Open University (UK), and Professor (Adj.) at Notre Dame Law School Australia. He has taught at Valparaiso University Law School, Notre Dame Law School, DePaul University College of Law, and Hangdong International Law School (South Korea), and been a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution and the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. He practiced law at BuckleySandler, LLP in Washington, DC.
  • Nachum Dershowitz
    Speaker
    Tel Aviv University
    Nachum Dershowitz is Professor of Computer Science at Tel Aviv University and incumbent of the Chair in Computational Logic. His graduate degrees in applied mathematics are from the Weizmann Institute in Israel. He is an international authority on program verification and equational reasoning and has made major contributions to the computer analysis of historical manuscripts. He has authored or coauthored over 100 research papers and several books, spent 2015-2016 as a Senior Fellow at the Institut d'études avancées de Paris, held visiting positions at other prominent institutions around the globe, was elected to Academia Europaea in 2013, and has won numerous awards for research and teaching, including the Herbrand Award for Distinguished Contributions to Automated Reasoning, several “test of time” awards for past research, and the Choice Outstanding Academic Title Award for his book, Calendrical Calculations, with Ed Reingold, now in its fourth edition.
  • Dario Rodighiero
    Speaker
    MIT and Harvard University
    Dario Rodighiero is a designer and a digital humanist. Today he is a postdoctoral associate at MIT Comparative Media Studies and an affiliate at Harvard MetaLab. He combines humanities and technology by practicing design at the intersection of architecture, data visualization, social science, graphic and interaction design. The Swiss National Science Foundation is currently financing his position. His work focuses at different scales on the social dynamics of academia. After looking at individuals by designing the Affinity Map⁠, currently he develops the Worldwide Map of Research, a recommendation system for scholarly mobility making use of Artificial Intelligence. Among his publications: Rodighiero, D., & Romele, A. (2020). The Hermeneutic Circle of Data Visualization. Forthcoming in Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology, 24(2); Rodighiero, D., & Rigal, A. (2019). The Daily Design of Quantified Self. Swiss Informatics Digital Magazine (online). DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.3463587; Rodighiero, D., & Cellard, L. (2019). Self-Recognition in Data Visualization. How Individuals See Themselves in Visual Representations. Interdisciplinary journal of social sciences, EspacesTemps.net (online). DOI: 10.26151/espacestemps.net-wztp-cc46
  • Dominik Balazka
    Speaker
    State University of Milan
    Dominik Balazka is a PhD student in Sociology and Methodology of Social Research at the University of Milan and the University of Turin, a joint PhD program of the Network for the Advancement of Social and Political Studies (NASP). The main focus of his current research activity is on religious nones, survey methods and potential impact of Big Data on the emerging field of non-religion studies. Before joining NASP he worked as researcher at Bruno Kessler Foundation with a double affiliation to the Center for Information and Communication Technology and to the Center for Religious Studies. Formerly, he worked on the European Values Study 2017 at Tilburg University and collaborated with the Department of Sociology and Social Research and with the Department of Information Engineering and Computer Science of the University of Trento. Latest publication: Balazka, D., & Rodighiero, D. (2020). Big Data and the Little Big Bang: An Epistemological (R)evolution. Frontiers in Big Data 3, 31: 1-13. DOI: 10.3389/fdata.2020.00031
  • Yorick Wilks
    Speaker
    Yorick Wilks is Emeritus Professor of Artificial Intelligence at the University of Sheffield, a Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute, and a Senior Scientist at the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition. Professor Wilks is especially interested in the fields of artificial intelligence and the computer processing of language, knowledge and belief. His current research focuses on the possibility of software agents having identifiable personalities.
  • F. LeRon Shults
    Speaker
    F. LeRon Shults, Ph.D., Ph.D., is professor at the Institute for Global Development and Social Planning at the University of Agder and scientific director of the NORCE Center for Modeling Social Systems in Kristiansand, Norway. He has published 18 books and over 140 scientific articles and book chapters on topics such as the philosophy of science, computer modeling, social simulation, and the scientific study of religion. His most recent books are Practicing Safe Sects: Religious Reproduction in Scientific and Philosophical Perspective (Brill 2018) and Human Simulation: Perspectives, Insights and Applications (Springer 2019, co-edited with Saikou Diallo, Wesley Wildman and Andreas Tolk).
  • Massimo Leone
    Speaker
    Massimo Leone is professor of Philosophy of Communication and Cultural Semiotics at the Department of Philosophy and Educational Sciences, University of Turin (Italy) and Permanent Part-Time Visiting Full Professor of Semiotics at the Department of Chinese Language and Literature, University of Shanghai (China). His research focuses on cultural semiotics, with particular emphasis on religious and visual texts, theoretical frameworks for modeling cultural change in semiotic terms, processes of meaning transformation at cultural frontiers, and semiotic ideologies at the crossroad between material and digital cultures. Leone is a 2018 ERC Consolidator Grant recipient. His ERC research project is about the face in the digital era. Leone has edited more than forty collective volumes, and published more than five hundred articles in semiotics, visual studies, and religious studies. He is Editor-In-Chief of Semiotica (De Gruyter), the Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies, and Lexia, the Semiotic Journal of the Center for Interdisciplinary Research on Communication, University of Turin, Italy, and editor of the book series I Saggi di Lexia (Rome: Aracne) and Semiotics of Religion (Berlin and Boston: Walter de Gruyter). He directed the MA Program in Communication Studies at the University of Turin, Italy (2015-2018) and is currently vice-director for research at the Department of Philosophy and Educational Sciences, University of Turin, Italy.

Registration

The webinars will take place on the Google Meet platform.
Separate registration for each episode is mandatory.
Subscribers will receive the link to access the webinar on the day of the episode.

(A) Sociological, Anthropological and Religious Studies Approaches to AI and Religion

(1) Wednesday, 16 September 2020, 4:00 PM – 5:30 PM CEST
Yaqub Chaudhary (Cambridge Muslim College): Interacting with and within the Artificial

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

(2) Wednesday, 30 September 2020, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM CEST
Beth Singler (Cambridge University): “Blessed by the Algorithm”: Religious Conceptions of AI and Their Impact on Society

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

(3) Wednesday, 14 October 2020, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM CEST
Stef Aupers (KU Leuven): “Things Greater than Thou”: AI and a Technical Re-enchantment of the World”

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

(4) Wednesday,  4 November 2020, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM CEST (New date)

Lionel Obadia (University of Lyon 2 and French National Research Agency): Magic of AI, AI for magic? Magical thinking practices and digital Age: Remarks for an opening field of study

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

(5) Wednesday,  11 November 2020, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM CEST

Inken Prohl (University of Heidelberg):  Algorithms as Formations Analogous to Religion: Discourses and Materialities

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

(6) Wednesday,  25 November 2020, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM CEST

Erica Baffelli, (University of Manchester); The Android and the Fax: AI and Buddhism in Contemporary Japan

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

***

(B) Utopian and Dystopian Techno-Futures: AI, Transhumanism, and Religion

(7) Wednesday,  9 December 2020, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM CEST

Oliver Krüger (University of Fribourg): God, the Singularity and the Transcendent Superintelligence: Philosophical Contexts of the Transhumanist Utopia

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

(8) Wednesday, 13 January 2021, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM CET

Robert Geraci (Manhattan College): Technological Give-and-Take: Religions of AI in Indian Science and Engineering

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(9) Wednesday, 27 January 2021, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM CET

Zachary Calo (Hamad Bin Khalifa University): Human Dignity after the Human

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****

(C) Values and AI: Machines, Ethics, and Religion

(10) Wednesday, 10 February 2021, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM CET

Nachum Dershowitz (Tel Aviv University): Morality and AI

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(11) Wednesday, 24 February 2021, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM CET

Dominik Balazka  (State University of Milan (Italy), joint work with Dario Rodighiero (MIT and Harvard University): Was Blumer Right? Religious Values and Quantified Self in the Petabyte Age

Wednesday, 10 March 2021, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM CET

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(12)  Wednesday, 10 March 2021, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM CET 

Yorick Wilks (University of Sheffield): Artificial Intelligence and Religion

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(13) Wednesday, 24 March 2021, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM CET

LeRon Shults (University of Agder): Using multi-agent AI to predict and prevent religious conflict

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

******

FINAL EPISODE: Directions for Future Research in AI and Religion
(14) Wednesday, 21 April 2021, 4:00 PM – 5:15 PM CEST

Margherita Galassini (Independent Researcher), Robert Geraci (Manhattan College), Oliver Krüger (University of Fribourg), Massimo Leone (University of Turin), Inken Prohl (University of Heidelberg)

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Contacts

Organizers

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