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The United Benefice of Withington, Sevenhampton with Charlton Abbots, Hawling, Whittington, Dowdeswell and Andoversford, Shipton and Cold Salperton

This month's letter from the clergy

Technological Horizons

Dear friends,

I recently was able to go to a Day Conference in London on a Christian understanding, and response to, developments in Artificial Intelligence. It was held at the British Library and was a very stimulating day. We heard from a Professor or Robotics, a Futurologist, the CEO of an Artificial Intelligence business, an M.P., a Professor of Science amongst others.

It was incredible to hear of some of the scientific advances. Apparently over 500,000 operations have been performed to put chips into people’s brains to restore hearing and eyesight. And the latest transistorised chip is just 10 nanometers in size (there are a million nanometers in a millimetre). Many uses of Artificial Intelligence are for very specific tasks - and help for example with medical diagnosis. Anything which requires the ultra-fast analysis of data, or the performing or repetitive tasks, benefits from the latest developments in technology. But there are also great fears. From the Science Fiction scenario of robots turning on their makers, to the addiction to screens and how that is changing human interaction.

Some speakers argued that technology was neutral and that the issues were how that technology could be used for good or evil. Others believed that just by being there technology was changing us in a negative way. There were concerns about job losses and a shift from business being about a deal between capital and ownership of data. Advances in technology are also raising new issues about the human longing for immortality and also what the pursuit of happiness is all about.

And, of course, we are faced with the question of what it means to be human. An article like this just points up the issues, but Christians need to get involved and thinking about this. In God’s eyes human beings are special, for we are created in God’s image. We also have a responsibility for how we behave and what we do to the planet and how we develop the potential of creation. Thoughtful books by Conference speakers are Patrick Dixon’s
The Future of Everything and Nigel Cameron’s The Robots are coming,
Us, Them and God.