Film Fest Focuses on Man and Machine

A Spiritual Take on High Technology

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ROME, DEC. 1, 2004 ( The Third-Millennium Spiritual Film Festival is focusing on the relationship between man and machines.

The initiative, which will be complemented by a study congress sponsored by the pontifical councils for Social Communications and for Culture, will reflect on the ethical questions posed by this phenomenon.

The congress, entitled “Man-Machine Hybridization, Identity and Conscience in Postmodern Cinema,” is being held today and Thursday in St. Mary of the Assumption University (LUMSA) of Rome.

The film festival, organized by the Italian Cinematographic Review, will show movies through Dec 19. Among them is the much-awaited animation film “Robots,” by 20th Century Fox.

At a press conference Monday, Archbishop John Foley, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, said, “The cinema … creates futuristic scenes, in which one often sees possible harmful consequences for the human person.”

“The evolution of technology has certainly allowed a revolution which has changed our way of living, and will change it even more, with undeniable advantages, but also with dangerous aspects,” he warned.

The issue posed by the initiative was summarized by the American prelate in this question: “Is it about humanizing the machine or about transforming man into something inhuman?”

For his part, Cardinal Paul Poupard, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, said that “the machine seems to be the negation of man and robotics the annulment of the spiritual dimension.”

Yet, modern man “cannot do without all that is the product of his intelligence and creativity, of art and technology, of engineering and literature, of reason and skill,” he said.

“God has given man intelligence, which has enabled him to produce ever-more sophisticated machines, and has left him free to make his choices,” the cardinal noted. “We are the ones who create our technological reality.”

“We have said many times that the cinema is a great instrument to recount stories, thanks to the power of the image,” he said. “And the commitment of many directors might help us to confront the evolution of a new dimension in which human intelligence is united to artificial intelligence.”

Cardinal Poupard added: “We cannot forget that humanity’s future will also be shaped by our capacity to love, to have feelings, by our need for spirituality. Man will continue to try to find out who he is, who others are, and who God is. Identity and consciences will continue to be irreplaceable human qualities.”

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