Religious Studies Professor Receives Fulbright Scholar Grant

Robert Geraci will study the connection between technology and meaning in India.

Robert Geraci, Ph.D., associate professor of religious studies at Manhattan College, was recently awarded a Fulbright-Nehru Scholar grant to research the social study of artificial intelligence and robotics at the Indian Institute of Science in Banglore, India. His research will begin in December 2012 and end in April 2013.

In his 2010 book Apocalyptic AI: Visions of Heaven in Robotics, Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality, Geraci analyzed how the western religious apocalyptic traditions have affected the way certain people think about robotics and artificial intelligence. Using this same concept of how technology and meaning are intertwined, he will interview roboticists, computer scientists and researchers in India to gain further insight and identify if there is in fact a religious connection.

“I am going to go and talk to people and try to understand why they build what they build, what kinds of things are they building and what problems are they hoping to solve using the computer sciences,” Geraci said. “I also want to contextualize that within their religious life if such a connection exists.”

Geraci is also preparing to publish his latest book on the association between video games and transhumanism. For example, some games actually debate transhumanism as a user plays, and this concept has lead to research conducted by three of Geraci’s students, which is funded through a National Science Foundation grant. He is the author of a variety of essays published in the Routledge Companion to Religion and Science, Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science, The Journal of the American Academy of Religion and Theology and Science.

He is one of approximately 1,100 U.S. faculty and professionals who will travel abroad through the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program in 2012-2013. The U.S. government sponsors the Fulbright Program, which is its flagship international educational exchange program. In addition, the program is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the U.S. and the people of other countries.

First established in 1946 under legislation introduced by the late Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the program is also supported by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). Since the Fulbright program started more than 60 years ago, nearly 310,000 people have participated — approximately 116,900 from the U.S. and 192,800 from other countries.