Artificial Intelligence and Social Justice: A Challenge for the Church

Paul Twomey

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The poor in a world dominated by ‘big data’

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is reshaping human experience in ways not visible to, nor fully apprehended by, the vast majority of the world’s population. The explosion of AI is having a notable impact on our present rights and future opportunities, determining the decision-making processes that affect all in today’s society.

Enormous technological change is occurring. It promises great benefits and poses insidious risks. The proportion of risks to benefits will become apparent, depending on the pioneers and creators of this technology, and, in particular, on the clarity of their vision of the common good and on how correct is their understanding of the nature of human experience.[1]

We need to understand that Artificial Intelligence is a challenge and an opportunity for the Church. It is a social justice issue. In fact, the pressing, greedy and non-transparent search for big data, i.e. the data needed to feed machine learning engines,[2] can lead to the manipulation and exploitation of the poor: “The poor in the 21st century, as well as the cash poor, are the ignorant, the naive and the exploited in a data-dominated world.”[3] Moreover, the same purposes for which AI systems are geared can lead them to interact in unpredictable ways to ensure that the poor are controlled, monitored and manipulated.

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