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Social Anthropology: Events


Hacking God. The Ganesh Yourself Experiment.

Hacking God. The Ganesh Yourself Experiment.
Speaker: Dr Emmanuel Grimaud # Université Paris Nanterre
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Date and Time
2nd Nov 2018 15:00 - 2nd Nov 2018 17:00
Seminar Room 1, Chrystal Macmillan Building

Bappa, a low tech teleoperated device of the hindu god Ganesha, was created in 2014 to enable anybody to incarnate the god and have a conversation. What if we could have a dialogue with a god in real time through a machine? What features would be necessary to make this entity acceptable? And what if God was hacked by people? Conceived as a Turing Test for hindu gods, mixing theology and robotics, the Ganesh Yourself experiment was conducted in the tumultuous city of Mumbai, during the Ganapati Festival. Bappa soon becomes a convincing interface to broadcast ideas and opinions. Hindu priests use the robot to transmit their incantations, astrologers make predictions for their customers and militants speak through the mechanical deity to propose social reforms. And when people sit with the machine for a question and answer session, a curious game takes place, metaphysical, social and political as well. Far from being adopted as an acceptable form of god, Bappa is always challenged by its interlocutor who tests the impersonator's ability to produce an acceptable divine voice and tries to push the potentialities of the device to its limit. How to make sense of this anthropological experiment, in contrast to previous wellknown experiments in robotics (Turing, Mori's 'uncanny valley', etc.)? What new speculative possibilities does it open regarding the kinship of gods and machines, the future of hinduism and transhumanism? And are anthropologists well prepared to face all possibilities, including the wildest and the most intriguing circuits? 

Ganesh Yourself