Exploring Artificial Intelligence

Photo credit: Matthew Goodwin. A pictograph near Sedona created by the Sinagua, ancestors of the Hopi, who lived in the area from 1100 C.E. to 1300 C.E.

October 4-6, 2019


This retreat is guided by professional philosophers and examines the theoretical and technological issues of artificial intelligence/machine learning--specifically concerning how humans will respond and adapt to it. We will be meeting in both indoor classrooms as well as on outdoor excursions on trails in Sedona’s Red Rock State Park. Why go outside to think about technology? Because sometimes the best way to think clearly about something is to get some distance from it—so check your mobile twitter feed at the door and get ready to think seriously about our relationship with technology.

Artificial intelligence could threaten our existence (as Elon Musk puts it) or it may help us find our ultimate purpose and solve some of our greatest challenges. You will decide for yourself in this discussion-oriented retreat where you will get to hash out the issues with other people who are interested in this timely topic.

Registration includes a two day admission to Red Rock State Park, two guided hikes with lessons and discussions, as well as a Saturday evening wine and cheese reception.

Chess piece on rock
Credit: affen ajlfe www.modup.net/

During this weekend retreat we will explore some of the most important questions facing humanity today: what is artificial intelligence and how will we adapt to using it?

We will begin by asking, what is intelligence? And what are the similarities and differences between animal, human, or artificial intelligence? One of the paradigms for thinking about artificial intelligence comes from Alan Turing’s “Turing Test.” We will discuss this test and evaluate if we think this is a good way to establish what AI is.

The method we will use in this retreat is a phenomenological method. This will be described in detail at the start of the retreat but very briefly, phenomenology was pioneered by Edmund Husserl in the early Twentieth Century and is a philosophical tradition that focuses on the nature of our experience.

Credit: Anita Ritenour (puliarfanita)

Together we will explore the many different ways in which we experience intelligence. When I encounter an artifact like a watch or a very old stone wall, do I recognize both as products of intelligence? What about an ant mound, or a beehive? We will discuss what is essential for something to be considered ‘intelligent’ (does it have to be conscious?) and what are its limits (does my ability to look up something on the internet count as intelligence?).

We will also explore ways in which artificial intelligence has been portrayed in science fiction, especially in film (see the list of science fiction films that involve artificial intelligence—we highly recommend watching at least a few of these in advance, but this is not required). Most of these films portray the future of artificial intelligence in a negative, if not apocalyptic, way. Have these portrayals influenced our perception of AI to think of it in a mostly negative way? Or are the fears portrayed in these films well founded?

We think answers to many of the questions raised in this retreat are still very much up in the air. We at Sedona Philosophy will present our own views on these issues, but we also want to hear your thoughts on them and will encourage you to participate. Join us for a spirited, intellectual, and fun weekend of conversation and insight on a very important topic.



Friday evening – informal meet and greet at a local restaurant to be announced (no-host)

Adjourn for the day

Saturday morning – First Session at Red Rock State Park

Break for Lunch

Saturday afternoon – Second Session at Red Rock State Park

Adjourn for the day

Sunday morning – Third Session at Red Rock State Park

End of retreat

Each of the three sessions will last 2-2.5 hours. There will be lots of extra time afterwards for you to explore and plan additional activities like hiking, mountain biking, or Jeep tours.

Registration is limited to 15 seats.

Ask Us About the Artificial Intelligence Retreat!