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Short Course 36 Reality, Robots and Religion

Robinson College: Sept 16-18, 2016

Deadline for applications: August 25, 2016
Deadline for Bursary applications: June 15, 2016

Aim of Course

The aim of this weekend event is to address the personal, societal and theological implications of advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotics.  Questions considered will include:

  • What does it mean to be human in a society increasingly influenced and penetrated by intelligent machines?  
  •  What are the potential risks and the benefits of this technology, and how should ethical issues be addressed?
  •  How do fictional representations of AI and robotics influence contemporary attitudes and technological priorities?
  •  How should traditional religious conceptions of humanity be re-imagined in an age of intelligent machines?
  •  To what extent do visions of a posthuman future transformed by technology reflect or replace traditional religious apocalyptic aspirations?

These issues are complex, multifaceted and highly contested.  Our aim is to host a conversation between participants from a range of disciplines, including computing and robotics, sociology, anthropology, ethics and theology.

The residential costs for the course are £290 (£190 non residential) full price participant, £250 (£150 non residential) for post doc's and £190 (£90 non residential) for students

A limited number of bursaries (scholarships) are available – see the Bursaries section of this website. Student members of Christians in Science (UK) may be eligible for a CiS bursary – for more details contact the CiS Development Officer Emily Sturgess on

Speakers (listed in alphabetical order) and topics

See multimedia items for this course or click on specific talk title in the course schedule to see available resources for that talk.

Click on a speaker's name to obtain brief biographical details.


Application Form

Course Schedule

Friday September 16
5.00 pmRegistration
6.00 pmDinner
8.00 pmWelcome and Introductions
8.15 pmProf. John Wyatt: Artificial Intelligence, Robots and Human Identity
9.00 pmQuestions and Discussion
9.30 pmDrinks and more discussion
Saturday September 17
8.00 amBreakfast
9.00 amLord Martin Rees: Some Thoughts on Artificial Intelligence and the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Life
9.45 amQuestions and Discussion
10.15 amCoffee Break
10.45 amDr David Glass: Religious Faith in an Age of Intelligent Machines
11.30 amQuestions and Discussion
12.00 pmSmall Group Discussion
1.00 pmLunch
2.15 pmDr Michael Burdett: Can we say ‘you’ to artifacts: personhood and creation in a technological world
3.00 pmQuestions and Discussion
3.30 pmTea Break
4.00 pmProf. Peter Robinson: Ethical Implications of Emotionally Responsive Machines
4.00 pmDr Beth Singler: Science Fiction and Religion
5.15 pmSmall Group Discussion
5.45 pmFree time
6.30 pmDinner
8.30 pmAny Questions? Discussion panel with the speakers
9.30 pmBar and more Discussion
Sunday September 18
8.00 amBreakfast
9.00 amProf. Susan Eastman: Biblical and Scientific Anthropologies in Conversation
9.45 amQuestions and Discussion
10.15 amCoffee Break
10.45 amProf. Richard Harper: Communication, God and Machines
11.30 amQuestions and Discussion
12.00 pmSmall Group Discussion
1.00 pmLunch
2.15 pmProf. Nigel Cameron: Robotics, Social Implications and the Future of Work
3.00 pmQuestions and Discussion
3.30 pmTea and Depart