Brandeis Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (BOLLI)

Reinventing Humanism: Asserting Our Identity in the Face of Advancing Technologies

Course Number


Study Group Leader (SGL)

Marie Danziger


This course will take place in a BOLLI classroom (22 person capacity) with a maximum enrollment of 15 to allow for some social distancing. The classroom will be equipped with a HEPA air purifier.

10-Week Course

Feb. 29 - May 9. No Class April 25.


The constant news about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its potential to transform society raises questions about how AI makes us feel about our place in the world: Do we feel more or less powerful? More or less human? Philosopher Meghan O’Gieblyn explores these questions in her new book God, Human, Animal, Machine: Technology, Metaphor, and the Search for Meaning. It has been described as “a strikingly original exploration of what it might mean to be authentically human in the age of AI.”  The NY Times review calls it “a rigorously thoughtful work of history, criticism and philosophy, but it is also, crucially, a memoir.”   

As digital technology has radically transformed both intellectual and religious thinking, we are left to try to identify the special qualities of human consciousness. In this class we will explore these ideas, and try to answer such questions as: Are we capable of objectivity and free will in the face of religious conviction and scientific determinism? Are we able to compete with the wisdom of data and the algorithms that give it structure and meaning? What remains of human agency, as artificial intelligence threatens to overwhelm us – and as the lines blur between categories like gods, humans, animals, and machines?

Group Leadership Style

More facilitated discussion than lecture.

Course Materials
God, Human, Animal, Machine by Meghan O’Gieblyn, Anchor Books, 2021.  Additional optional materials will be provided on a class website or by email links.
Preparation Time

1 to 2 hours/week.


Marie Danziger taught public policy communication skills for over 30 years at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government where she was Lecturer in Public Policy and Director of their Communications Program.