Institute on Religion in an Age of Science – Artificial Intelligence Turns Deep: Who’s In Control?

June 23, 2018 to June 30, 2018

“I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that….” said HAL in the most famous line in 2001: A Space Odyssey. So Dave had to disable HAL to regain control of the spaceship and dodge annihilation. From the earliest myths of artificially created beings to today, the question of “who’s in control” has troubled us. Now it looks like we’re really going to have to deal with it in our lifetimes. On the 50th anniversary of 2001, IRAS returns to considering the prospects, opportunities and dangers of Artificial Intelligence (AI), first discussed at an IRAS summer conference in 1968 by Marvin Minsky, a founder of AI research and consultant to Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke as they directed and created 2001.

This conference will address how AI may shape our future as well as our ability to foresee and control how AI will reshape us.

Deep learning neural networks and advances in big data manipulation have led to rapid progress in machine learning and associated capabilities. Investment in AI will grow more than 30 times between 2016 and 2020, to at least a $50 billion industry. New AI products will enhance sales, data analysis, and diagnostic and predictive services for medicine, government, science and industry. We are on the cusp of creating machines that can operate in environments that require significant autonomy, such as self-driving vehicles and, ominously, weapon systems. The future of AI is likely to have powerful consequences related to jobs, income distribution, criminal and social justice and our polity in general. This growing international commercial and governmental juggernaut, itself subject to concentrated and frequently unaccountable control, presents just one of AI’s many challenges. How will humans identify and find meaning in life as the breadth of skills unique to living, sentient beings shrinks? The consequences of the interplay of AI and the human mind, and our very self-concepts, are likely to be equally profound. If we succeed in creating science fiction’s “conscious” machine, what would be our duties to it (as well as its duties to us)? The values and orientations fostered by a religion and science perspective will be crucial to the responsible development and utilization of AI technology as it unfolds.

We will review the current state and potential future developments of AI technologies and consider the following questions as seen by AI experts and those in related fields:

  • What are the true benefits of AI for the future of society?
  • How do we assure ourselves that all of society will truly benefit from AI?
  • How can we avoid the various pitfalls that are now being debated concerning the control of AI in the future? * What are the ethical, social, legal, and religious factors that ought to be considered to assure the benefits of AI for society?
  • What is the appropriate role of religious wisdom and traditions in helping to maintain this control when considered in more secular ethical, social, and legal circumstances?
  • How can religious wisdom and traditions, in particular, inform more secular deliberations about controlling the future of AI?
  • What are the roles of religion and science in contributing to the dialogue to optimize the benefits of AI to society?
  • How can we create an ongoing process to maintain human control of the future of AI?

Youth Programming

Youth groups for ages 3-18 meet in the mornings to learn, play, and explore the island. Optional youth activities are scheduled most afternoons and evenings, including an Intergenerational Olympics and a Talent Show.

Registration Fee

$225 for IRAS members members of partner & sponsor organizations, $325 for non-members, $125 for youth up to 18 years old, $500 cap on registration for families


In an effort to make the IRAS conference on Star Island accessible and affordable for everyone, we’re offering a variety of discounts for the 2018 season.

Check out the discount guide below to find out for which discount you could qualify. 
Apply for a discount using the links after the guide.

Sponsor & Partner Discount
Are you an IRAS Sponsor or Partner? Have you ever been to Star Island? If you are, and have never been to Star Island we would like to offer you 30% off room and board to attend this year. Fill out this application to see if you qualify! Sponsor & Partner Discount.

Past Speaker Discount
Were you a speaker at an IRAS conference on Star Island, but haven’t returned since? We want to welcome you and your family back to this summer at a special rate! Attend the full duration of the conference and receive 30% room & board! Fill our this application to see if you qualify! Past Speaker Discount.
In order to qualify you must not have returned to Star Island since you were a speaker. 

ALL Other Discounts
(New to Star, Returning Conferee, Former Pelican, etc.)
Please visit to apply.

Room & Board Rates

These rates include lodging, meals, and ferry transportation.

IRAS Standard Shared Standard Single Motel Shared Motel Single
Adult 18+ $967 $1,315 $1,191 $1,747


Youth rates are determined by age on the first day of the program, regardless of room type.

IRAS Under 6 6-11 Yrs 12-17 Yrs
Youths Free $448 $640

Ferry Schedule

Saturday, June 23
Departure: Portsmouth 2:25 p.m.
Arrival: Star Island 3:25 p.m
Saturday, June 30
Departure: Star Island 8:20 a.m.
Arrival: Portsmouth 9:45 a.m.


Many scholarship and fellowship opportunities are available; visit for more information.


Conference Registrar