Big Questions, and a Few Answers, at the Intersection of AI and Religion

Brian Green

Santa Clara University

What has Athens to do with Jerusalem, or Silicon Valley to Rome? It turns out they have a lot to do with each other. AI and religion intersect in many ways, but in this talk I will look mainly at how they connect ethically, anthropologically, theologically, and politically.

Ethically, there is much good to be done and evil to be avoided, and much of the ground is already being covered by secular thinkers: there are clear issues with bias, safety, transparency, privacy, employment, inequality, moral de-skilling, and so on, but society would benefit from a more Catholic perspective too. Anthropologically, AI raises for humanity the question of what makes us unique if our intelligence can be externalised and improved upon as AI does, as well as questions of the significance of our embodiment, finitude, our psychological strengths and weaknesses, etc. In theological terms there are movements that view AI as a potential god, or that God is an AI in charge of the computer “simulation” in which we dwell, or that we can create our own Heaven and New Earth through technology. At the same time AI can also help us express the image of God in us, if we use AI to fulfils God’s mission for humankind. Politically, AI also has the practical potential both to help solve many problems of efficiency and scarcity, while at the same time risking being a totalitarian dream-come-true, allowing the implementation a surveillance state, and promoting or suppressing religion, etc.

This talk will get to some of our root questions having to do with the interaction of technology, particularly AI, and human psychology and culture, and how that connects to Christian and particularly Catholic religion.

Brian Patrick Green is the director of technology ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, California. He has doctoral and master’s degrees from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley and an undergraduate degree in genetics from the University of California, Davis. He collaborates with organizations such as the World Economic Forum, the Partnership on AI, and the Pontifical Council for Culture. His work is focused on AI ethics, the ethics of space exploration, the ethics of technological manipulation of humans, the ethics of risky emerging technologies, corporate technology ethics, and the relationship of technology and religion (particularly the Catholic Church). Green is co-author of the Ethics in Technology Practice corporate technology ethics resources (2018), author of the book Space Ethics (2021), co-editor of the Journal of Moral Theology special issue on artificial intelligence (2022), and co-editor of the book Religious Transhumanism and Its Critics (2022).