Recently the quiz show “Jeopardy” pitted “Watson,” an IBM supercomputer, against the show’s previous top winners including Ken Jennings, the all time record holder for Jeopardy wins. With fascination, I watched “Watson” demolish the humans in a lopsided win. The event got me thinking. I tend to believe, contrary to futurists such as Ray Kurzweil and Nick Bostrom, that machine intelligence will never surpass human intelligence.
On the other hand, “Watson” “sounded” like a human and processed the information with a speed that surpassed the best human effort. Kurzweil, Bostrom and others believe that it is just a matter of time before technology will transform what it means to be human. The assumption is that human nature is malleable, not static. The hope is that technology can intervene to take humans to a higher level of existence and even immortality.
So my question is, what does this imply for human nature? Should Christians feel threatened by these developments?
This coming July, the Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity will host its 18th annual conference. This year’s theme is “The Scandal of Bioethics: Reclaiming Christian Influence in Technology, Science & Medicine.” The conference theme poses a number of interesting questions that, I believe, would be worth considering in advance of the meeting.
First, do you believe Christian moral reflection has been marginalized in bioethical discourse and public policy decision-making, and if so, in what ways?
Second, what may we cite as the evidence of a contemporary bioethics bereft of Christian influence? How might the bioethical terrain differ from its present state if the Christian voice had enjoyed a more sustained presence in public policy discourse?
Third, to what may one attribute this marginalization of Christian moral reflection in bioethics? Is the problem external to the Christian community, or do we share in the blame? If the latter, in what way?
We’ll save the question of a way forward for another post, but perhaps you have other questions pertaining to the diagnosis of a diminished Christian influence in contemporary bioethics and its underlying cause(s).
Warm greetings to the 300 or so alumni, students, and faculty connected with the bioethics degree programs at Trinity International University—and to others listening in!
The Trinity Bioethics Community (TBC) is a tremendous network of bioethics-trained people who have many insights and produce many resources that are well worth sharing. In addition to this blog, Trinity is launching a new online archive of excellent bioethics papers and projects that bioethics students at Trinity have produced. Members of the TBC are receiving information directly regarding how their best resources can become available through this archive. Whenever a new resource enters the archive, starting sometime in Fall 2011, posts to this blog will notify readers of its availability.
The alumni members of the TBC are also receiving information regarding how they can send to Trinity Town (the online alumni network) information describing the vocational and other settings in which they are using their Trinity bioethics training. Those communications will automatically be posted to this blog as well. So will announcements about bioethics-related events and other opportunities at Trinity.
Of special interest to many, though, will be the commentaries on news events and bioethical issues that will regularly appear in this blog. You are encouraged to reply to such posts as often as you can, to generate insightful discussions. Please also submit a new commentary/post of your own whenever you wish.
Wonderful new opportunities lie ahead for informing, challenging, and inspiring one another through the Trinity Bioethics blog!
Trinity Bioethics Degree Programs