There are few explicit courses in Catholic secondary education that cultivate a dialogue between AI technology and Catholic Tradition and Vision. If AI technology is the future, then Catholic and Christian educators need prepare students to see how our beloved Christian faith (please note here my bias) helps to further these conversations.
Artificial intelligence is a focus in modern culture (rightfully so) as it is considered a significant avenue in helping humans solve problems. Charles Choi in the recent article titled “The New Artificial Intelligence” in Popular Science, argues that people are greeted with moral concerns when they begin to understand that “AI may eventually be capable of upgrading itself, quickly and efficiently” (Choi, 2019, 4). Some, if not all theologians, are paying careful attention to the way in which AI development parallels human values. To make things even more complicated, scientists understand that our values change over time, therefore AI development should be dynamic as well (Choi, 2019). If AI is influenced by algorithms and coding methods taught at the secondary high school level, then perhaps a closer exploration of the way in which moral and ethical considerations play a role in this creative process needs to be at the forefront.
This conversation creates an opening for Catholic educators. I use this term opening to show that Christian and Catholic pedagogy (particularly, the application of Catholic Social Teaching in learning methods) has its limits but can also play a role in furthering these conversations. Catholic educators, as well as practical theologians, take seriously ethical responsibility when reflecting and furthering their praxis. This makes it possible for their students to reflect on the ways in which our values play a role in modern conversations regarding AI. Catholic educators employ ways of engaging the principles of Catholic Social Teaching, Scripture, and the Christian Vision (or how we develop the meaning of Christian discipleship into our lives). We, as well as practical theologians, engage in interdisciplinary approaches and recognize the importance of being self-reflective, teleological, eschatological, porous, and theologically normed by our Tradition and Vision.
One main goal of learning methods associated with this topic is to increase the dialogue between AI conversations and Catholic Social Teaching at the secondary level. Sub-goals include the following: 1) Acquiring a deeper understanding of the relationship between our Christian/Catholic Tradition and science; 2) to infer the possible ways that this can enhance the passions of our students related to specific fields in and “outside” of theology, and 3) to learn and explore more about the principles concerning our own Catholic faith.
A goal, then, should be to provide students with a brief history on the relationship between science and the Christian faith, and provide background information on AI technology and the use of ethical responsibility when dealing with scientific advancements in our current culture. Moreover, lessons should employ project based learning atmospheres where students focus on pre (and post) reflective questions regarding faith-based considerations, offer opportunities to put their ideas into practice, and reflect on their theories and work as a team. This method, in many ways, mirrors the current approaches of practical theologians. Perhaps practical theologians have an exciting role in this journey, as those who want to cultivate, foster, and sustain Christian thought and understanding with the young minds and hearts of the twenty-first century.