O’Callaghan to present TEDxNewport talk on “Redesigning Humans”
Sean O’Callaghan, assistant professor in the Department of Religious and Theological Studies, will present a talk on “Redesigning Humans” as a featured speaker in TEDxNewport, the local version of the world-famous TED talks, which will be filmed before an invited audience on Saturday, Nov. 5 at the Jane Pickens Theater.
“The technology I will be talking about is technology which is still in its young phase, but which will explode in coming decades, and we need to be aware of where the technology revolution is bringing us,” O’Callaghan said. “Some of it may, indeed, turn out to be science fiction, but much of it will happen as predicted and we need to have plans in place both socially and ethically to embrace the opportunities and confront the challenges.”
O’Callaghan, dean of Salve Regina’s Class of 2019 and a Pell Center faculty fellow, is among the 13 speakers chosen from more than 60 who submitted topics. His proposal on human beings and bio-engineering was selected by TEDx organizers among their top 25 initially and then ultimately among their final 13.
“I have been fascinated by technology and its impact on the human body and mind for several years,” O’Callaghan said. “At first, it all seemed like science fiction; then I realized that places like MIT, Harvard and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency were investing millions in research into the GRIN technologies – Genetics, Robotics, Information and Nanotechnology.”
O’Callaghan credits people like voice recognition technology inventor Ray Kurzweil, an internationally renowned futurist currently working for Google on Artificial Intelligence (AI), who are at the forefront of heavily funded research into technologies which will radically alter the human mind and our abilities to learn and communicate.
“As I investigated further, I began to see that what appeared to be science fiction is rapidly becoming science fact and there is so much to be explored about these developments in terms of ethics and social implications,” O’Callaghan said.
O’Callaghan, who teaches mainly in the field of world religions, said he introduces his research into his classes often to get students thinking about these issues and viewing religion as something dynamic and relevant. Religion, he said, does have a voice in this debate, as religions will have to speak to a world where technology is rapidly advancing and challenging what it means for us to be human.
“Most religious people believe that we are made in the image of God, so in what many are predicting to be a post-human world, what will religion have to say to society?” he asked.
For more information about TEDxNewport or to connect to the livestream, visit www.tedxnewport.com.