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What does it mean to exist in complex relationships with machines? What insights can be offered to our understandings of these relationships by the theologically significant theme of ‘love’? What critical assessments can be made of our multiple uses of technologies in shaping our futures, by reflecting on our pasts?

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> Conference: Care and Machines
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Disquiet over the prevalence of social and economic individualism has a long history. In a world of mobile Capital and increasingly mobile people, communities of common tradition and locality appear to be under threat from the advent of a fragmented market society. Are these complaints against individualism justified? And crucially, how should Christians respond to them? Digging down into the substance of these questions, this project will consider the theological, liturgical and scriptural resources Christians have for understanding the notion of individualism in relation to issues of education, public life and the formation of democratic citizenship.

Living with and Loving Machines:
Exploring Care, Risk, and Trust as Challenges for Technocultural Lifeworlds

Lead researcher: Dr Scott Midson

Technologies are a constant source of wonder and anxiety for humans, and this has much to do with how they represent the ability to change, transform, and even develop various aspects of our lives and the world. At their most extreme, technologies may instigate what has been widely (and vaguely) referred to as a ‘posthuman’ future, where the human itself is irreversibly changed in that it can be genetically manipulated, prosthetically augmented, or even digitally uploaded. This future remains understudied in theology, and so this LTI project aims to contribute to our understandings by exploring how we interact and engage with machines, including the benefits and challenges of such relationships in areas extending to health, education, leisure, food, and manufacturing.

The project is led by Dr Scott Midson, whose previous research, including a PhD thesis titled ‘The Cyborg and the Human: Origins, Creatureliness, and Hybridity in Theological Anthropology’, has explored what it means to be human and to be made in the ‘image of God’ (Genesis 1:26) in an increasingly advanced technological world. In this work, it was revealed that certain assumptions about the nature of humans and technologies govern and determine our attitudes, but cyborgs may offer a way of challenging them through an emphasis on complex relationships.

Building on this, the ‘Living with and Loving Machines’ project uses ‘love’, a provocative term in discussions of technology, to explore the character of human-technology relationships in innovative ways. In theology, ‘love’ is a significant notion and can be used to refer to an array of relationships ranging from divine love to the more ‘natural’ loves including friendship, affection, and partnership. By using the notion of love to cast interrogative light on our relationships with machines, the project seeks to continue to debunk our sense of wonder and anxiety, and to encourage an engagement with technologies that is informed, reflective, and responsible.

As part of these aims, the project will host a number of events that will facilitate interdisciplinary as well as public reflection on complex human-technology relationships and the theme of love. There will additionally be an online blog that picks up on these discussions, and a number of papers and publications that emerge from the research.

If you would like to hear more about this project, please email scott.midson@manchester.ac.uk