The theme of the International Conference, sponsored by the German group of the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation, which was held in Berlin on November 15-16, 2017, was “Christian Social Ethics in the Digital Era,” reported Vatican Radio in Italian on November 22.
Scientists of international renown in several disciplines spent two days exchanging proposals on the general organization of society, in relation to the present technological revolution. A debate took place between the speakers and the participants on the subject of artificial intelligence and the ethical use that can or cannot be made of it.
During the debate, Domingo Sugranyes Bickel, President of the Centesimus Annus-Pro Pontifice Foundation warned: “in the dynamic of the digital era, humanity runs the risk of being considered only as an object.”
Christian social ethics, said Archbishop Heiner Koch of Berlin, must preserve man’s dignity in the progressive digitalization process, avoiding the risk that the smartphone replaces relations and a veritable interpersonal dialogue.
Between “Solitude and Omnipresence”
Auxiliary Bishop Everard J. de Jong of Ruremonde, in the Low Countries, stressed that “for a long time digitalization has concerned all the domains of life, from work to religion, from hospitals to road traffic. Consequently, it also needs ethical criteria for its application and interaction.”
The social networks have made possible relations with the entire world, but the individual user finds himself alone,” he continued. “The social networks have also made it possible to take part in the destiny of others, but the suffering of others is often perceived as something distant, without empathy thus placing a torn man between “solitude and omnipresence,” added the Bishop.
Finally, quoting Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’, Bishop de Jong exhorted to promote a new way of thinking. “There must be a different point of view, a thought, a policy, and educational program, a lifestyle and a spirituality that are a resistance against the advancement of the technocratic paradigm.”
Another participant – Gerrit Heineman, head of the Research Center of the University of Applied Sciences of Lower Rhineland in Germany stressed that Christians make up the largest community with some 1.3 billion users of the Internet and that 90% of the generation born after 2000 use the social networks.
Translation by Virginia M. Forrester