For three years we have been gathering an unparalleled international community of multidisciplinary cross-faith experts on faith perspectives on AI. For two years, we’ve been publishing such perspectives in our Newsletter and adding sophisticated voices to conferences and programs to demonstrate the relevance of faith perspectives on AI ethics and our ability to help convene the faith world’s contribution to the global conversation. And for half a year we’ve been assessing how best to organize our community going forward to more effectively sustain and leverage our community’s deep knowledge and experience.
And now, just at the right time, two events made July the most important month in the life of AI and Faith.
First, our board adopted the recommendations of our three Founding Member Study Teams to add a think tank research capability and reorganize our expert community to create numerous new opportunities to engage. And just a few days before, the New York Times informed the world in an opinion column spread across three pages of its Sunday Review of the importance of our mission – to demonstrate how the “ancient wisdom” of the world’s major religions bears directly on the profound ethical dilemmas posed by the world’s most modern technology.
As a result, we’re receiving many inquiries about how to join our work. We’re following up directly on those we’ve received through our email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, and welcome anyone to inquire directly there and also support our work at our donation page.
Here, moving from general to specific, are five new ways by which anyone can join our community and work – whether you are an AI or ethics expert, a tech professional worker, a faith leader, a faith congregant or adherent, or somebody who just generally and reasonably believes that 4,000 years of developed wisdom ought to be in the mix around deploying such world-changing technology as AI.
Members: Since our start, we have had one category of members: our AI experts, related professions, and ethicists, theologians, philosophers, and cultural interpreters whom we call Founding Members. Each Founding Member is listed on our website. We have built our reputation and contributions to date on their expertise, shared knowledge, and connections, and are so very grateful for them. We will always recognize our historic Founding Members in a membership category with that name, but are now asking them to take on additional responsibilities and roles across the organization, alongside new participants. While we are no longer adding Founding Members, we have created four new Membership categories that are equally important to our long term mission:
- Contributing Members join one of four new teams led by Contributing Fellows to participate in the critical work of editing content, producing programs and panels for our own and major third party conferences, advancing our social media presence and marketing, and fostering our community and network. This has been the backbone of our work to date, undertaken primarily by a handful of volunteers. With four new dedicated teams, our voices will be greatly amplified and our reach significantly widened.
- Sustaining Members make an annual contribution of $150 or more to our work, help us spread the word through your own networks and connections, and gain access to special opportunities for participation as our program work and internal conversations expand.
- Members support our work with an annual contribution of at least $50.
- Friends support our work by subscribing to our Newsletter and contribute as they are able.
Contributing Fellows are leaders of mission critical teams for Content Production, Program Production, Communications and Marketing, and Networking, and will play a critical role in shaping and defining our communications “Channel” going forward. We expect to launch these teams with at least two Contributing Fellows for each team (i.e., at least 8 Contributing Fellows this fall), with diversity by faith perspective to the extent possible. We seek experience and passion for the tasks needed, as well as the desire to build and lead a team of Contributing Members in each task area so that we can effectively spread the work and amplify the outcome.
Research Fellows will bring their own interests and perspectives to the work of our new think tank, with substantial flexibility to define their areas of focus while enjoying opportunities for cross fertilization in a virtual community and publication with a credible and (we expect) increasingly recognized institution. Although we are launching on a voluntary basis, we are concurrently submitting research grant applications for substantial projects aiming to providing funding for joint and individual research led by our newly denominated Research Director, Dan Rasmus. Dan brings to us extensive think tank management experience at several very large entities as well as his defining work on our Database Demonstration Project this past winter.
Advisors are subject matter experts, representatives of our mission Partner organizations, and other persons with substantial interest and experience in aspects of our mission, who will advise and support our Board, eventual Executive Director, Think Tank, and Contributing Fellows on significant developments and opportunities for our work and contribute episodically to publications, programs, podcasts, and other internal and external conversations.
Partners include our current Consortium Partner organizations primarily in the Pacific Northwest, plus new Partners nationally and internationally with which we already have been working informally, and others we are learning about. Expanding our Partners will also expand our “network of networks” for considerable mutual advantage.
As summer turns to fall, we are actively recruiting among our Founding Members and others who have already contacted us to fill these specific new opportunities for membership and leadership. As we move ahead on an interim, still largely volunteer basis, it will be especially helpful to grow our membership community for three reasons:
- It is substantively important and very encouraging to learn of the interest and work of others in this space and to have the opportunity to share your work;
- It will help us greatly in our grant applications to demonstrate a broad and growing base of interest and membership; and
- We have several specific funding needs that will allow us to leverage our strong volunteer base with paid consultants and employees –specifically 1) experienced and efficient consultants to help us create a communications plan and assist in our grant applications; and 2) partial funding to provide an internally generated monetary basis for prospective foundation grants that will allow us to pay the research director, hire an experienced full-time executive director, and deploy efficient interns soon.
We plan to remain an efficient, sophisticated, primarily volunteer-led virtual community, through the active participation of an expanding community of faithful supporters who recognize the critical importance of adding faith perspectives to the global conversation on deploying boundaried AI for human flourishing. Please join us through our online donation site and by contacting us at email@example.com about any of the above specific roles.