Artificial Intelligence

Photo credit: Matthew Goodwin (SPEX)

On this exciting weekend retreat we will discuss some of the most important questions facing humanity today. What is artificial intelligence? And how will we adapt to using it?

Registration includes course materials, admission and two lunches at Red Rock State Park, three guided hikes with lessons and discussions at Red Rock State Park, as well as a lovely Saturday evening wine and cheese reception.


Will AI, as Elon Musk claims, be an existential threat to human civilization?

See Elon Musk discussing the dangers of Artificial Intelligence

In order to address these and related questions about artificial intelligence we will first have to discuss what we mean by intelligence. How should we compare human with machine intelligence?

This topic will also raise numerous ethical issues. At what point should we treat artificial intelligence as deserving of rights? Should people be permitted to abuse robots with artificial intelligence? How will we address job shortages that may be caused by the proliferation of robots that can learn most human tasks? Why are most depictions of robots identify them as either male or female, and what does this say about gender today?

Much of what we may know or think about artificial intelligence has been heavily influenced by science fiction movies, and much of this portrays the advances of artificial intelligence in decidedly dystopian and even apocalyptic ways. Do we agree that this is an accurate depiction of our future with these technologies?


A list of science fiction movies we recommend that you watch prior to the retreat:

Metropolis (1927)

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

Forbidden Planet (1956)

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Westworld (1973)

Star Wars (1977)

Blade Runner (1982)

The Terminator (1984)

Tron (1982)

A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)

Her (2013)

Ex Machina (2015)

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

We will assume everyone is familiar with each of these movies and we will be spoiling endings!

This retreat will be held almost entirely outdoors on the trails of Sedona Red Rock State Park. We think it is easier to think and discuss technology when we are not immersed in it and distracted by it. However, is it ever possible to completely separate from technology? Do our shoes and synthetic, fast-drying clothes that help keep us warm count as technology, and does our reliance on it keep us from thinking clearly about technology?

We think getting away from the screens and climate-controlled spaces and getting out on a trail in the sun with beautiful red rock views will help us to think better and more clearly about our relations with technology. This will be crucial for us in the coming years as our involvement with artificial intelligence occurs more and more regularly.

See the itinerary (subject to revision)

Friday Afternoon October 13, 2:30 – 4:30 p.m.

2:00 – 2:30 p.m. We will meet at the Smoke Trail Parking area of Red Rock State Park. (The Twin Cypress Ramada, which precedes the Smoke Trail Parking area has restroom facilities if needed.)

2:30 – 4:30 p.m. We will take the Smoke Trail to the outdoor classroom. Overview of weekend experience including key philosophical concepts and themes. (20-30 minutes)

We will hike trails that include breathtaking views and access to pristine Oak Creek. We will introduce the ideas of a variety of philosophers and theories relevant to the theme.

Saturday Morning (9:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.)

8:30 – 9:00 a.m. We will meet at the Miller Visitor Center at Red Rock State Park.

9:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. We will hike trails and discuss more advanced topics in outdoor seating areas by overlooks.

We will walk around the historic House of Apache Fire and reflect on the human presence in nature.

We will continue back to the Visitor Center where we will have a picnic lunch.

Reflection and Preparation

Tour the Red Rock State Park Visitor Center to learn about the local flaura, fauna, and geology.

5:30 – 7:30 p.m.

Wine and cheese reception at Enchantment Resort.


Sunday Morning 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

8:30 – 9:00 a.m. We will meet at the Miller Visitor Center at Red Rock State Park

Hikes and discussions in outdoor classroom and along creek.

We will conclude with reflection and discussion over a picnic lunch at the Cypress Ramada