January 1st, World Day of Peace 2024
Walking in the footsteps of Saint Alphonsus recommends that as Redeemptorists we are always tuned to the cry of the poor and ready to respond. This year the theme for World Day of Peace “Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Peace” points to a new dimension for how we as Redemptorists may need to respond to needs of the poor. As Pope Francis suggests in his statement to mark World Day of Peace, Artificial intelligence presents opportunities to improve the lives of humans, especially the poor, but just the same can be an instrument of injustice and poverty creation. Importantly, the Holy Father recommends the need for dialogue and particular attention to the ethical concerns that AI raises regarding peace. For Redemptorists who are very often first respondents to the plight of the poor and the new poor in various spaces around the world, this becomes a particular concern as partners with a demographic frequently left out of these conversations and for whom AI possibly holds wide ranging opportunities and implications.
In many parts of the world, Redemptorists find themselves engaged working with the poor in many dimensions and in their struggle against the varying causes of suffering among the poor. We work with the poor to improve their housing conditions, in their fight against racial and ethnic discrimination, we work to improve their access to medicine, we work to bring relief from natural and industrial disaster, we work with those neglected by society, we confront political systems to give voice to the poor. Ours is a mission of preaching the Good News in word and action. The advent of AI is potentially an additional avenue which Redemptorists must contend with when working with the poor in their existing missions. The Redemptorist must interrogate what Artificial intelligence could mean for the poor and even how it could be employed in their Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation projects. The technology should also challenge us as sons of Alphonsus who Pope Francis describes as the patron of moralists. Given the latter, what voice must the Redemptorist add to this burgeoning conversation on the ethics of AI?
In his World Day of Peace message, the Pope is attentive to the ethical implications that artificial intelligence may pose. Two areas of concern highlighted by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development in August were the need for there to be, “open dialogue” regarding new technologies, and the need for these new technologies to be “at the service of humanity.” In other words, an inclusive conversation about the ethical implications of AI and what the application of AI should look like encompasses consideration for how these new technologies could be abused to create instances of discrimination and violence, and that the same do not take root in the development of these technologies.
From his message we can glean that these technologies have implications for the image of God, an integral point of focus for the Redemptorist missionary, as he and his partners endeavor to restore the integrity of the human person sacramentally and in other Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation initiatives. How do we safeguard the Image of God from a technology that has the ability to reproduce human qualities without the knowledge or consent of persons involved? What implications does the reproduction of human qualities have for the human, for human rights and for access to basic services and labour? These are potential ethical and very practical considerations that could affect the Redemptorist mandate of service with the poor. Whatever the outcome of conversations regarding AI, the technology presents new avenues for Redemptorist Justice Peace and Integrity of creation initiatives.
Indeed embracing AI could yield many fruits in the pursuit of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation. AI potential for aggregating information and analysis thereof could provide a vital resource for initiatives in areas like migration, poverty alleviation, climate change, race and ethnic discrimination, environmental protection and ecological awareness etc. The potential of AI to help find solutions to the most pressing issues that affect creation should be embraced with an ethical approach where, in the place of causing more harm to our common home, new initiatives that allow our common home to flourish may be encouraged. One imagines efficiencies in the use of resources, access to education, improvement in communication that facilitates justice and peace among peoples, and innovations that reduce suffering in food, medical, justice and technology deserts as potential fruits of AI. Focusing on Integrity of Creation as a concept that encompasses justice and peace and the imago dei recommends that ethical issues regarding AI as a technology that reproduces and aggregates intelligence is of vital concern because the integrity of humans is vital to the integrity of God’s creation.
Much like the Pope’s message indicates, as Redemptorists we must be conscious of the infancy of the technology per its development, but at once be aware of the ethical challenges we will encounter, while being sure to avail ourselves of opportunities AI presents in our missionary activity of preaching the good news to the poor and all that encompasses. As a congregation of men who seek out the poor and who have a moralist tradition and heritage, our contribution to this conversation looms.
(By Bro Augustus John Riviere. General Commission for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation)
Messages World Day of Peace
Artificial intelligence and Peace. Vatican IHD (WDP2024)