AI and Faith Focus on Tech Ethicists in the UK

Our AI&F Advisor Scott Hawley (physics, technology and ethics) is a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Physics at Belmont University in Nashville, where he teaches physics to audio engineering students. And of course, being in Nashville he plays music on the side, in addition to researching “intelligent” machine learning applications for musical audio production.  Scott provides a great example himself of AI&F’s core mission to “identify, connect, encourage and equip” people from a variety of disciplines holding sophisticated faith perspectives on AI applications and ethics.

Scott is currently in the middle of his third summer tour of the UK, named AIMICAPL (standing for AI, Music, Intelligence, Classification, Art, Philosophy and Law), and sponsored this year by an open source AI-music consortium called Harmonai.    Scott is speaking on these subjects in programs/podcasts  and otherwise connecting with a wide range of tech professionals, machine learning experts, ethicists and faith leaders in London, Belfast, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Nottingham and Cambridge.  In June he spoke on a panel on “AI, Business, & Human Rights” at Queen’s University in Belfast and attended CogX in London.  Scott reported in from Belfast for Rex Schnell’s podcast Sacred Space to describe the goals of his trip and who he is meeting.

While Scott travels, here is a short tour of of AI&F’s growing connections in the UK, including some of the same people Scott is meeting.

AI&F Advisors in the UK who have been with us at least a year are:

  • Trish Shaw, Founder of Beyond Reach, a tech ethics consultancy in Nottingham that provides advice on AI and data ethics policy and government/regulatory affairs, designs AI and data ethics governance frameworks for corporations and other organizations, and curates experts for Ethics Advisory Boards, Panels and Committees. Trish currently chairs the UK’s Society for Computers and Law and the AI Committee of the International Technology Law Association (ITECH).  Trish was interviewed in our Newsletter in August 2020.
  • Yaqub Chaudhary is a physicist by training and a recent Research Fellow in AI, Philosophy and Theology at Cambridge Muslim College currently researching AI, cognitive science and neuroscience in connection with Islamic conceptions of the mind, intelligence, human reasoning, cognition, knowledge, and the nature of perception and consciousness. Early this month, we published an overview by Yaqub of digital ethics issues from an Islamic perspective.
  •  Richard Turnbull advises us on business ethics as the Director of the Centre for Enterprise, Markets and Ethics at Oxford (CEME). Previously, he was Principal of Wycliffe Hall, a Permanent Private Hall of the University of Oxford.
  • Brian Brock is our Advisor on ethics and disability and is Professor of Moral and Practical Theology at the University of Aberdeen (Scotland), where he has been teaching and  researching the theology and ethics of disability since 2004.

Joining us this month as an Advisor on Islamic theology, ethics, and public engagement is Maryyam Mehmood, Associate Director of the Edward Cadbury Centre for the Public Understanding of Religion at University of Birmingham and the founder of The SHIFT (Social Harmony, Intercultural & Faith Training).   We’re seeking out mutual areas of mission with Marryam and with the Director of the Cadbury Centre,  Prof Andrew Davies, after getting acquainted at the National Faith ERG Conference in DC in May.

Other individuals not yet formally connected with AI and Faith, but whose work we’re following  include:

  • Michael Burdett, Assistant Professor in Christian Theology at the University of Nottingham’s Department of Theology and Religious Studies. Prof Burdett has been co-director of Human Flourishing in a Technological World: A Christian Perspective, a three-year collaborative project reaching across the UK, US and Canada to provide a comprehensive theological assessment of recent technologies’ impact on human nature and human life.  He co-edited The Oxford Handbook of Theological Anthropology growing out of the Human Flourishing project with a second soon to be published:  Human Flourishing in a Technological World: A Christian Perspective.

 

  • Beth Singler, the Junior Research Fellow in Artificial Intelligence at Homerton College, University of Cambridge, where she explores the social and religious implications of advances in AI and robotics. Dr. Singler is also an associate research fellow at the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence. We interviewed Dr. Singler in our Newsletter last year about her work on the continuing impact of faith artifacts on tech culture, and are delighted that she is part of our Roundtable on AI and Religion in 2041 at the American Academy of Religion Annual Conference in Denver this November.

 

  • Rev Dr Pete Phillips, the Director of the CODEC Research Centre for Digital Theology at Durham University and Research Fellow in Digital Theology in the Department of Theology and Religion. There his research interests extend to the Bible in the digital age; human adaption/transhumanism/imago dei research; use of AI in machine reading ancient texts; and digital humanities and its intersection with Theology.   Phillips recently appeared with our Advisor Yaqub Chaudhary on a BBC radio program on AI impact on religion.

We have just fruitfully connected with Nicholas Beale, the chair of the pluralist Panel on Ethics and Spirituality of the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists, based in London since the early 1990s, and expect to find several new opportunities for engagement with that pioneering panel.  Their work includes endowing the IT Livery Company Chair at Gresham College, London, currently held by cybersecurity expert Victoria Baines.

And The Kirby Laing Center for Public Theology at Cambridge with their 87 Research Fellows are on our radar for future engagement.  Their work is “Christian scholarship and public theology, rooted in spirituality and practiced in community, for the glory of God and the flourishing of the church and world.” Our Advisor Derek Schuurman co-leads their Technology Research Hub and our Advisor Jason Thacker is working to develop a US extension.

While on sabbatical this summer, our Advisor Michael Paulus (interviewed in the Newsletter in May) will be attending the  AAAI/ACM’s AI Ethics and Society major ethics conference at Oxford in early August and spending a further month in the UK on his own tour of tech ethicists and organizations.  We’ll look forward to reports from both Scott and Michael on their meetings and gleanings in an upcoming story, and to continuing to deepen AI&F’s connections across the UK.

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