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Rethinking India's global approach to AI

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New Delhi, June 6 (Ajit Weekly News) Twenty-first century life is increasingly governed by artificial intelligence (AI) technologies such as machine learning, big data analysis, facial recognition, and robotics. For decades, an ideology of apocalyptic progress and cosmic transformation has accompanied the advancement of AI in the US; that vision is intimately connected to trans-humanism, the idea that humanity can transcend its limits, even mortality, using technology.

Based on contributions from science and science fiction, advocates of such apocalyptic AI suggest that the world will soon see godlike machine intelligence and that human beings will upload their minds into immortal machine bodies.

The arrival of this ideology in India raises questions about how global cultures can contribute to AI technology and our beliefs about AI. These beliefs have gained a foothold in Indian visions of AI, but they have not been accepted uncritically; rather, Indian scientists and futurists revise the trans-humanist vision and illustrate how traditional Hindu values can add to the global perspective.

By describing the arrival and reconfiguration of trans-humanist ideas in India, Robert M. Geraci’s ‘Futures of Artificial Intelligence: Perspectives from India and the US’ (Oxford) reveals how the nexus of religion and technology contributes to public life and our modern self-understanding while suggesting that the apocalyptic approach to AI should be tempered by other visions.

By tracing the movement of apocalyptic AI into India and exploring Indian efforts to redefine those trans-humanist aspirations, ‘Futures of Artificial Intelligence’ opens the door for rethinking our global approach to AI and advocates for technologies and visions of technology that advance human flourishing.

Through five chapters, the book deals with issues like Waiting for the End of the World: Technology, History, and the Indian Struggle for Independence; The Iron Horsemen of the Apocalypse: A Futurist Blend of Religion, Technology, and Cosmic Transformation; Bearers of the Apocalypse: Horses, Robots, and the Digital Future of India; Recoding Religion: Theological Renderings of Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Society; and (Re)designing the Future

Robert M. Geraci earned his PhD from the University of California at Santa Barbara and is currently Professor of Religious Studies at Manhattan College in New York City. He has been a visiting researcher at the Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute and Fulbright-Nehru Research Scholar at the Indian Institute of Science (2012-2013) and at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (2018-2019), both in Bengaluru.

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 Trans-humanism in South Indian Science (Lexington 2018)’.

His research has been supported by the US National Science Foundation, the American Academy of Religion, and two separate Fulbright-Nehru Awards. He is a Fellow of the International Society for Science and Religion.

–Ajit Weekly News


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