Jacob Boss is a doctoral candidate in Religious Studies at Indiana University. He is writing his dissertation on religion and grassroots transhumanism. Jacob teaches widely, serving as instructor of record or associate instructor in the Departments of Religious Studies, Informatics, and the Collins Living-Learning Center. He is an editorial assistant for the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, and the co-founder of the Human Augmentation Research Network, hosted by the Center for Religion and the Human at Indiana University. HARN supports graduate students and junior faculty researching transhumanism and human augmentation. Jacob serves on the steering committee for the Human Enhancement and Transhumanism unit of the American Academy of Religion. He is the author of “For the Rest of Time They Heard the Drum.” In Theology and Westworld, edited by Juli Gittinger and Shayna Sheinfeld, 37-53. Lanham: Lexington Books/Fortress Academic. And “The Harmony of Metal and Flesh: Cybernetic Futures.” In Spiritualities, Ethics, and Implications of Human Enhancement and Artificial Intelligence, edited by Christopher Hrynkow, 139-157. Wilmington: Vernon Press, 2020.
Some of his activities as a graduate student include:
In 2020 Jacob received a dissertation completion fellowship from the College of Arts and Sciences, this $25,000 award supports dissertation writing in Fall 2020 – Spring 2021. He began serving on the steering committee for the Human Enhancement and Transhumanism Unit of the American Academy of Religion. He taught a 16-week course introducing critical theory to undergraduates, with the subtitle “Hacking the World.” The course was offered through the Collins Living-Learning Center and designed to empower undergraduates to work with even the densest academic thinking and writing. He received the Carl Ziegler Teaching Award for “Hacking the World,” and the Graduate Prize for Teaching Excellence from the Department of Religious Studies. He also helped to redesign the curriculum and materials for the Social Informatics course in the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering.
In 2019 Jacob gave a paper entitled, “The Steel Cocoon” to the Society for the Anthropology of Religion, at Victoria University, Toronto, Canada. He also designed and taught his own version of our religion and ethics course, which he renamed “Come Hell or High Water,” focusing on human extinction and technologically facilitated transcendence. He continued leading a workshop series in our department on alternative approaches to grading, using his experience as instructor of record to explore the importance of narrative self-evaluation in the classroom. He delivered a paper to the Annual Conference on South Asia in Madison, Wisconsin in October entitled “Virtual Asuras and Ascetic AI: Digital Media Arts and Pedagogy for the South Asian Religions classroom.” He also delivered a paper at the American Academy of Religion annual meeting in San Diego, California, entitled “Punks and Profiteers in the War on Death.”
In 2018 Jacob gave a paper entitled, “Transhumanist Ethics in the Anthropocene” at the Religious Perspectives and Alternative Futures in an Age of Humans conference. He designed and taught his own version of the core intro class, “Religions of Asia.” He also led a workshop series for his department on alternative approaches to grading and evaluation.
In 2017 Jacob gave a paper, “The Harmony of Metal and Flesh: Ecotheology and Cybernetics,” to the Midwest Region conference of the American Academy of Religion. Also in 2017 he gave a paper, “Artificial Beings, Natural Feelings: Rudolph Otto’s Phenomenology of Religion and Robots,” at the religious studies conference hosted by Indiana University Bloomington.
In 2015 Jacob founded and lead the Graduate Religious Studies Association of the Department of Religious Studies at Indiana University. In October of 2014 he gave a paper at the Annual Conference on South Asia hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison entitled, “Public Performances of Dissatisfaction: Looking Beyond Nation-States in Maharishi Vedic City.” His trip to Madison was supported by a generous grant from the Dhar India Studies Program. He also served as department representative to the Graduate and Professional Student Government for the 2014-2015 school year.