April 10-12, 2008



Anne Foerst - Saturday April 12 at 10:00am

Ann ForestDr.Theol. Anne Foerst has been assistant professor for computer science at St. Bonaventure University since Fall 2005. From 2001 until 2005 she was on the faculty as visiting professor for theology and computer science.

Before coming to St. Bonaventure, she has worked as research scientist at the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and was also affiliated with the Center for the Studies of Values in Public Life of Harvard Divinity School. At the AI-Lab, she served as the theological advisor for the Cog and Kismet Projects, two attempts to develop embodied, autonomous and social robots in analogy to human infants which might learn and develop more mature intelligences. She also initiated and directs "God and Computers", a dialogue project initially between Harvard Divinity School, the Boston Theological Institute and MIT and now to be continued at St. Bonaventure. In this function, she has organized several public lecture series and public conferences on Artificial Intelligence, computer science and concepts on personhood and dignity.

She is consultant of projects which explore the connection of new media and religion and especially the Christian churches; she has also presented various keynote addresses on the interaction between religion and science. Her work on dialogue has been covered in numerous print and internet media (New York Times, MS NBC, Boston Globe, Der Spiegel etc.) and she appeared in many radio and television shows (ABC, CNN, WDR, ARD etc.) She has published papers in academic journals on the possibility for mutual enrichment between Artificial Intelligence, the Cognitive Sciences, and Jewish and Christian theologies and anthropologies.

She also writes for popular media to bring the question on religion and science to a broader audience. Her research centers mostly on questions of embodiment and social interaction as central elements in human cognition, on questions of personhood and dignity, and on how to bring theology back into the public discourse in secularized, high-tech Western cultures. Her first book "God in the Machine: What robots teach us about humanity and God" was published by Dudham: a part of the Viking-Penguin group, in Fall 2004, came out as paperback in Fall 2005 and is currently translated into German.

Her research interest are centered about the question on the nature of personhood and humanness; after exploring the biological mechanisms of humans in her book, she is concentrating now on the questions of sexuality as bonding mechanism and conflict resolution to establish objective criteria for personhood.