Vatican Seminar: What is the Common Good in the Digital Age?

Vatican Seminar: What is the Common Good in the Digital Age?

24. September 2019 0 By Horst Buchwald

Vatican Seminar: What is the Common Good in the Digital Age?

Vatican, 24.9.2019

How will artificial intelligence and robotics change our lives? Where is the blessing and curse of digital progress already visible today? Where does technical development serve individuals, where does it serve the whole of humanity? Such questions are the focus of a Vatican seminar on “The Common Good in the Digital Age” this week at the Vatican.

The Dicastery of Human Development and the Pontifical Council for Culture invited experts from all over the world and from science, politics, economics, philosophy, theology and the social sciences to the conference from 26-28 September. Various topics such as artificial intelligence and robotics, cyber security and child protection on the Internet will be addressed. Together, the participants want to explore ethical questions with regard to digital progress and to decipher the benefits as well as the challenges of technological development. The Vatican Seminar on Digital Progress will take place at the General Curia of the Jesuits in Borgo Santo Spirito.

“The technocratic paradigm has become so dominant today that it is very difficult to do without its means and even more difficult to use them without being dominated by their logic. It has become “culture-adverse” to once again choose a lifestyle with goals that can be at least partially independent of technology, its costs and its globalizing and surrendering power. (Pope Francis, Laudato si, 108) “

Robots instead of workers?

For example, digital progress can become a curse for employees when their manpower is replaced by robots. In addition, technological progress in the weapons industry and in the hands of dubious regimes often becomes a danger to large parts of humanity. Who actually benefits from technological progress in the digital age, and who is left out even in the age of the Internet? These questions also come up.

“It must be recognised that the products produced by technology are not neutral, because they create a network that ultimately conditions lifestyles and direct social possibilities in the direction of the interests of certain power groups. Certain decisions, which appear to be purely factual, are in fact decisions for the development of social life. (Pope Francis, Laudato si, 107) “

It’s in our hands.

The addressees here are all those experts who drive and guide digital progress. In his Encyclical Laudato Si on the environment, Pope Francis recalls: “Certain decisions that seem purely factual are in fact decisions for the development of social life”. One could also translate the Pope in this way: Technology is neither good nor bad, it depends more on what we do with it. Thus the Vatican Seminar does not exclude the responsibility of technicians such as politicians, donors and users of digital progress. The inventors of certain algorithms, for example, would have a considerable influence on the lives of millions of people, is cited as an example in the press release on the seminar.

Understanding the value of the common good

In order to understand what “common good” can mean in this context, an interdisciplinary exchange is needed, underlines Curia Bishop Paul Tighe, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture, who presented the seminar at the seat of his authority. In order to understand the technical development in the digital age and to steer it in the sense of the common good, it certainly needs experts and technicians from exactly that area – answers to the use of these technologies must come, however, from the area of philosophy and theology, so the bishop. In dialogue and interdisciplinary exchange it was necessary to find out what digital progress could mean in the sense of the common good. Here it is especially important to include the poorest and those people who would otherwise be excluded.

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