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Judging is deconstructing: What about Artificial Intelligence?

Judging is deconstructing: What about Artificial Intelligence?

 By now, you may have the idea that I am a historian and technologist rolled into one. It's a long story about how that happened. Still, it has been a fascinating life journey of pure synchronicity.

History dates the common era birth of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to the summer of 1956 at Dartmouth College when a group of "thinkers" came together for a project to develop programs to mimic human problem-solving.

If we were around at the time, most of us had no idea what was happening that summer. I was probably on the playground.

Imagine if Joseph Cardijn had been present with these engineers as they brainstormed the ideas. What role do you think Cardijn might have played? Why? What do you think he would have focused on first?

This little exercise gives us some insights into ourselves and how we might think about emerging technology, especially the rise of Artificial Intelligence.

Technology and Religion, especially together, have had complex and multifaceted connections throughout history. Please think of the Agricultural & Industrial Revolutions, the emergence of technology, and its effect on Religion. We have a better grasp of the Industrial Revolution because we have lived at the end of the Revolution and know how people like Joseph Cardijn addressed issues. Now, think about the Autonomous Revolution in which we live and experiencing the early emergence of what is yet to come. Today, with artificial intelligence, the complexity may be overwhelming for many. This is where the See-Judge-Act can be most helpful. As I mentioned in last week's musing, the art of Judging/Discerning involves the awareness and study of history. The art of judging/discerning is an exercise in deconstructing what we are struggling with, experiencing, and trying to change. 

Positive connections and opportunities allow us to see and act. Challenges and Tensions provide opportunities for us to discern and reflect.

Here are some critical aspects of this relationship:

Positive Connections:

  • Spiritual Practice: Technology can be a powerful tool for facilitating spiritual/religious practices and fostering community. Online platforms allow people to access religious texts, participate in virtual services, and connect with others who share their faith.

  • Spread of Ideas: Technology can be used to spread religious ideas and teachings to a broader audience. We see this right now in social media and online resources, which make it easier for religious organizations to share their message and connect with potential followers.

  • Scientific Exploration: The scientific curiosity and technological innovation underlying advancements can be seen as an extension of the human desire to understand the world and find meaning, which can connect to religious impulses.

Challenges and Tensions:

  • Ethical Concerns: Have we discerned the concerns about the ethical implications of specific technologies, such as artificial intelligence or genetic engineering, which can raise questions about the nature of life, consciousness, and free will? What does it mean to be human, and what is the difference it makes? Will AI drive us to a better understanding of the role of economics in our world? Think about understanding the term "Cathonomics" and what lessons we learn from the Encyclicals to apply to our discernment process with AI.

  • Competition for Attention: Think of your education, training, and life experiences and how they may influence and allow you to express concerns that technology can distract individuals from understanding the greater good or create competition for people's time and attention.

  • Spiritual Authority: The rapid pace of technological change can challenge traditional religious authority and raise questions about how to interpret religious texts and teachings in the context of new scientific discoveries and social realities. Think of the discernment of technology in the authority of Catholic Social Teachings, the Sermon on the Mount, and the rich history of human experiences.

The relationship between Technology and Religion, especially regarding Spirituality, is dynamic and constantly evolving. It's important to remember that this is a complex topic with diverse perspectives, and the specific connections between technology and Religion will vary depending on the particular technology, religious tradition, and individual beliefs.

The intersection of artificial intelligence (AI) and Religion is a complex and multifaceted topic that raises opportunities and challenges. Here's a breakdown of some key points:

Opportunities: What can we do and act:

  • Enhancing religious experiences: AI tools could personalize religious teachings, provide access to religious texts in different languages, or even create immersive virtual experiences for religious practices.

  • Promoting interfaith dialogue: AI could analyze vast amounts of religious texts and identify commonalities across different faiths, fostering understanding and promoting dialogue.

  • Supporting religious communities: AI could assist with administrative tasks in religious organizations, freeing up human leaders to focus on spiritual guidance and community building.


  • The nature of consciousness and sentience: If AI were to become truly intelligent and aware, it would raise theological questions about the nature of consciousness, the soul, and the possibility of artificial life forms having religious experiences.

  • Ethical considerations: Biases in AI training data could lead to discriminatory outcomes in religious contexts. Additionally, questions arise regarding who controls AI, its potential for misuse, and the ethical implications of granting it any level of autonomy in religious matters.

  • Human connection and the role of faith leaders: AI should not replace human interaction and spiritual guidance offered by religious leaders. Maintaining a balance between technological advancements and the importance of human connection in religious communities is essential.

Overall, the relationship between AI and Religion is still evolving. Religious communities actively discuss these issues, and there needs to be a unified perspective. Some religious leaders view AI cautiously, while others see it as a potential tool for good. Ultimately, the impact of AI on Religion will depend on how it is developed and used, with careful consideration given to ethical and theological implications.

Now think about if Joseph Cardijn was alive today, a person who played a prominent role in the Second Vatican Council, understood the cause/effect of the Industrial Revolution firsthand, where his volume LaïcsIen premières lignes (1963) helped to shape the decisions on the role of the laity. 

What role should the laity be leading in technology?

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