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Speakers Ward, Graham
Year 2018
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Ward- AI Vampires

Graham Ward

University of Oxford 

“AI Vampires: In Search of the Soul”

In this paper I will discuss the ways in which fictional supernatural monsters become metaphors for deeper cultural and social anxieties. The vampire has been associated, for example, with capitalist greed and concerns with a model of homo economicus as consumer rather than producer. All this is well documented in literary and cinematic criticism, but there has been less attention to the way these fictional supernatural monsters also raise questions about what it is to be human. The werewolf and the vampire blur the boundaries of animal and human, and raise anxieties about powers and realms that are extra mundum. Recently the zombie has become the focus for philosophical attention in discussions about the nature of the mind, but still the figure raises questions of life after death. These fictional supernatural monsters open questions about animal, human, and spiritual life. Looking at both Bostrom's work on AI and superintelligence and Blade Runner 2049, we find that the boundaries blurred are between the human and the angelic/demonic – 'Norman' (after Psycho's villain) the AI psychopath has just been unveiled by MIT. But questions about divinity are not absent, as I will show.The central question remains: the constitution of the human soul and its spiritual capacities. To date, as far as I know, no one has conceived of an AI vampire because AI's 'transhumanism' theoretically remains on an entirely immanent plane. But the possibility of imagining AI vampires opens questions about the contemporary search for the soul and the place of the spiritual that this paper will explore. The products of the human imagination express deep concerns human beings have about themselves.

GRAHAM WARD is the Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Oxford and former Head of the School of Arts, Histories and Cultures at the University of Manchester. Among his books are Cities of God (Routledge), Cultural Transformation and Religious Practice (CUP), True Religion (Blackwell), Christ and Culture (Blackwell) and The Politics of Discipleship (Baker Academic), Unbelievable (I.B.Tauris) and How the Light Gets In (OUP). Along with Michael Hoelzl, he is also the translator of two of Carl Schmitt’s works: Political Theology II (Polity) and Dictatorship (Polity). He edits three book series: Christian Theologians in Context (OUP), Illuminations (Blackwell) and Studies in Theology and Political Culture (Continuum). His next book will be published in 2018, Unimaginable. Currently he is completing a four volume work entitled Ethical Life (OUP).

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