Last night the Toronto Transhumanist Association, in collaboration with the Toronto Secular Alliance, presented a screening of Ken Gumb’s documentary, “Building Gods.” Gumb’s independent rough-cut documentary deals with the topic of pending artificial intelligence with a particular focus on greater-than-human AI. It features interviews from the World Transhumanist Association’s Nick Bostrom, cyberneticist Kevin Warwick, AI developer Hugo DeGaris, and theologian Anne Foerst.
We were fortunate to have about 20-25 people attend, most of them members of the Secular Alliance and the local humanist chapter. The screening was held at the Freethought Centre near University of Toronto campus. After the screening, which was 80 minutes in length, I moderated an open forum for a discussion of the various issues as presented in the film. Topics discussed included: friendly AI, the concept of goal driven AI, the problem of consciousness, uploading and corporeality, subjective differentiation between analog and synthetic consciousness (particularly differences in the perception of time elapsement), and how non-augmented humans may hope to be treated by an advanced intellect.
I was fairly surprised to discover that many of the humanists and atheists present were unaware of the transhumanist meme and its attendant issues. Most had never heard of such thinkers as Ray Kurzweil, Hans Moravec, Bostrom, Warwick and DeGaris, and they had only known concepts like SAI and uploading from science fiction (if that). But despite the new material and futurist revelations, most attendees were able to hold their own in during the discussion period and contribute meaningfully. It helps to have an open mind and a scientific inclination -- attributes that certainly characterize most humanists and atheists.
We had a good crowd, a good venue and the appropriate equipment. The response and level of interaction was very good, so I'll work to organize future screenings.