As Big Business Struggles with AI Ethics, SES Explores High-Tech Implications through Center for the Ethics of Emerging Technologies
Southern Evangelical Seminary President Dr. Richard Land: Christians Must Think about How Technology Interfaces with Our Everyday Lives—and the Ethical Implications That Arise from These Encounters
CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Christians grapple with ethical issues in a variety of scenarios—workplace, family and even church settings. But even secular “Big Business” and “Big Tech” struggle with questions about right and wrong when it comes to how they use technology and artificial intelligence.
Why does a seminary focus on topics like AI, technology and more? Because these matters have much to do with the how we live out our Christian faith in the midst of the unprecedented challenges presented by the ever-accelerating quantum leaps forward in technology, says Southern Evangelical Seminary (SES, www.ses.edu) President Dr. Richard Land.
Through its Center for the “Ethics of Emerging Technologies,” SES considers issues of morality and technology and how ethics intersects with both.
“Even Christians who don’t work in technological fields must think ‘Christianly’ about how technology interfaces with our everyday lives—and the ethical and moral implications that arise from that interface,” Land said. “For instance, can the technologies that make our lives easier be employed for more sinister purposes? How do we keep a healthy balance about the role that technology plays in our daily lives? At what point in our lives do we begin to replace human interaction with technology, substituting electronic virtual relationships for real, in-person ones? These are all issues Christians must think about as our world becomes more and more driven by technological advances and as those technologies seem to demand an ever-greater portion of our time.”
As an example, The Financial Times recently highlighted how Big Tech is addressing the ethics of AI. The Times reports that Google employees have protested its bid for a Pentagon cloud computing contract as well as involvement with a government AI weapons program. Other companies such as Amazon and Microsoft have their own approach to AI and the accompanying ethical concerns, especially when it comes to technology that could ultimately be used for military or surveillance purposes.
Other headlines tell of how both government and business are dealing with the ethics of AI:
- Forbes: AI’s Increasing Strategic Importance with Governments: “Many governments are seeing strategic value in artificial intelligence and are looking to incorporate machine learning and cognitive technologies to help deliver effective citizen services…”
- Market Watch: Your end-of-life caregiver may be a robot: “The growing intelligence of everyday digitized objects has made it possible for everything from kitchen appliances to home heating systems to manage tasks by themselves. … But such a sweeping array of devices also presents new questions and responsibilities for their users, not to mention for the companies hoping to make a profit by selling them.”
- Bloomberg Law: Senate Bill Seeks National Artificial Intelligence Strategy: A bipartisan bill introduced last week “would create a centralized office overseeing a national artificial intelligence strategy and authorize $2.2 billion in research and development.” The Artificial Intelligence Initiative Act calls for the creation of a “national interagency committee to develop a 10-year plan for the public and private sectors.”
Land says these technological headlines are not without ethical conundrums that all Christians should explore. Through The Center for the Ethics of Emerging Technologies, SES is equipping its seminary students to delve into these issues and consider how technology relates to the defense of their faith.
Last month, Land also signed onto and endorsed a “Statement of Principles” regarding artificial intelligence from the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, where he is President Emeritus.
“This important statement,” Land said, “provides an excellent starting point for laying the ground rules for how we can approach these issues with maximum probability of retaining the unique dignity and inviolability of human nature and at the same time benefit from artificial intelligence, which, after all, is the product of human ingenuity with which God gifted us uniquely as human beings. The ERLC’s ‘Statement of Principles’ is a roadmap to begin the journey, which will encompass a significant part of our future as human beings.”
For 27 years, SES has existed to equip students and ministry leaders to share the Gospel from an intelligent, informed and rational biblical worldview. Courses, conferences, seminars, guest speakers and more seek to accomplish this longstanding mission. Central to this purpose is the provision of a biblical basis and an academic understanding of believers’ commitment to Christ. Therefore, SES seeks to provide an educational opportunity where the Christian worldview is both a framework for thinking and a dynamic for living.