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Launching Purposefully and Strategically into 2024

When AI and Faith was launched in late 2017, AI was not in the limelight as much as it is today. The discussion around AI ethics did not hold the social and political attention it now demands, and faith engagement with AI ethics held a less significant role. Today AI is more integrated into our everyday experience, and there is a deepening concern over the ramifications of this important technology.

AI&F has played an important role in opening doors for faith-oriented tech creators and religious leaders into the global conversation of AI ethics. Now it is important to band together to move through those doors. As 2023 ends, it is appropriate that we survey our current operating environment and several strategies to we will pursue in 2024.

Engaging AI Ethics Globally 

The international expert community of AI and Faith has grown. From our founding in the Pacific Northwest, AI and Faith experts now span thirteen countries around the world.  Other faith-oriented nonprofits have planted their stake as well. From our inception we have pursued a strategy to pursue and partner with other organizations with similar objectives.

Our experts are often involved with other pluralist organizations like The Worshipful Company of Information Technologists’ Ethics and Spiritual Panel and the G20 Interfaith Forum’s Research and Innovation for Science, Technology, and Infrastructure Working Group. We also intersect with faith traditions including the Vatican’s AI initiatives as well as AI institutes at a dozen Catholic universities, the technology ethics leadership for the Southern Baptist Convention, the Lausanne Project, and major media like Christianity Today. We recently merged with AI Theology, another pioneering nonprofit with similar objectives. Our recent international outreach includes experts involved with the AI, Faith and Civil Society Commission and the AI Christian Partnership, both based in the United Kingdom.

We are also moving forward with partnerships and connections with commercial technology companies. Within many Fortune 500 companies, including most major technology companies, pluralist Faith Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) comprise active individual faith traditions with hundreds or thousands of members. These ERGs seek out opportunities for constructive engagement with technology. Since 2020, a key strategy for AI and Faith has been working with the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation to encourage Faith ERGs to engage with the ethics and compliance officers in their companies. Some key Faith ERG leaders are AI&F advisors and we are actively engaged with national conferences.

Principles of Faith and AI Are Not Incompatible

The collective efforts by people of faith to influence AI ethics are met with two common barriers. First, prospects of collective profitability can overwhelm individual ethical concerns. Second, the domain of AI ethics can overlook the wisdom of the world’s major religions, presuming that ancient texts have little bearing on the novel technical and societal problems being considered. AI and Faith represents a diverse and robust pluralist approach to overcome both barriers. Those representing various faith traditions can work cooperatively and learn from one another, while speaking substantively according to different religious foundations.

The notable exclusion of religious organizations from the AI Safety Summit at Bletchley Park in November led to the foundation of the AI, Faith and Society Commission in London this month. Faith representation at high profile ventures is not always absent. The new United Nations AI Advisory Body includes Father Paolo Benanti representing the Vatican, however he is the sole faith-oriented advisor among 39 participants. AI and Faith remains the only overtly faith-oriented partner among the 110 members in the global Partnership on AI.

The passionate beliefs and global scale of faith organizations can offer a great deal to the global conversation of AI ethics, as a pluralist cross section of our experts argued in our response to a White House RFI in July on AI policy formation. Since 2020, AI and Faith has published over 200 features and interviews that demonstrate our commitment to important questions in AI ethics and faith. We have tackled important questions such as how our identity and destiny can be shaped by AI, and how best to preserve human dignity, agency, truth, and justice in the AI systems we build. The answers derived from our faith beliefs are powerful levers for wise creation and uptake of AI technologies, so long as we can organize sufficiently to pull those levers. In this light, we look towards 2024 to continue the conversation at the intersection of AI, faith, and ethics.

Predictions and Strategies

As AI models become more embedded in our everyday experience, we consider three possible trends that currently influence our planning, strategies, and emphasis in the year ahead:

  • The fragility of AI ethics. The problematic effects of AI models may become more apparent, even as private and public regulatory efforts grow. Mustafa Suleyman’s The Coming Wave considers a wider threat lens in this regard. Suleyman documents the powerful incentives to overcome ethical precautions and suggests ten ways to bolster them. though unfortunately omitting faith world leverage entirely.
  • Truth and trust in shared information. The extent to which AI models can create well-crafted misinformation is a matter of grave concern. Heading into the 2024 election cycle in the United States, the ways that AI can be used to shape public opinion will be an especially poignant point of discussion.
  • AI applied to faith and ministry. Many tools and applications, especially those leveraging large language models, will become more prevalent. A number of such applications have already been deployed, raising important questions about how AI might aid in informing and shaping religious faith and practices. It will be crucial to ensure that such tools can uphold orthodox beliefs while also adhering to data privacy and cybersecurity standards.

Our board and volunteer leadership spent much of this year exploring specific strategies and tools to make the most of our diverse, multidisciplinary community of experts and partners.  Here are four strategies we are especially excited about:

  • Creating an AI Trust and Accountability accrediting body for faith ministry applications grounded in strong theology and sophisticated tech knowledge. The October cover story in Christianity Today featured several AI and Faith experts who noted the need to move from “transcendent rules” about AI engagement to “nitty-gritty” risk management standards for AI tools. We hope to move forward with a set of standards, especially in response to requests from industry collaborators. We are exploring a standard-setting and audit process for Christian ministry applications modeled on the 40-year success of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA). Motivation for compliance would come from earned trust, access to investment capital and donations, and market success. AI and Faith is well equipped to take on this challenge.
  • Actively joining with Strategic Partners for global leverage.  The new White House Executive Order, Bletchley Park Statement, UN AI Advisory Body stakeholder exploration, and the Vatican’s forthcoming Encounter AI essays (authored in part by Ai and Faith advisors) provide excellent starting points for global engagement with partner organizations. Our advisors in law, policy, and ethics are launching a project to speak into these global initiatives, including making the most of our singular role as a representative of the religious world to the Partnership on AI.
  • Introducing our Mighty Networks platform for experts, partners, and members. This year we met our goal of encouraging internal dialogue across eight Salons and Town Halls, opening discussions up to our new member category, and addressing six conferences nationally and globally. As we continue these efforts, we hope that the Mighty Networks platform will enable experts, partners, and members to explore new ideas and initiatives. We will continue to develop and curate premium content in our newsletter, social media, and on Mighty Networks. Finally, we will be launching a podcast in January. In the coming year we will continue to create informative, thoughtful, faith-inspired, and relevant content to help navigate the daunting deluge of information on this topic.
  • Implementing a new Leadership Structure.  After six years functioning as the Executive Director of AI and Faith, I am stepping back from day-to-day management in favor of a three-member executive leadership team. This team includes research director Mark Graves, advisor Elias Kruger (founder and director of AI Theology), and board member Thomas Osborn. Together, the executive leadership team brings a diverse set of management skills and and technical experience that surpasses my own. So far, the team already been working hard to optimize the work of our volunteer operating groups to improve efficiency and results. But we urgently need to further leverage their work through a paid executive director position. Our administrator Penny Yuen has also taken on a broader role as Program Coordinator.  I will stay on as board chair and will continue my work of community outreach and networking, which is what I excel at.


Join Us in Walking Through These Doors

Over the last few months we have been implementing a specific strategy to combine direct donations, foundation grants, and corporate grants into a sustainable fund to employ an Executive Director. This month we have received multiple five-figure pledges from individual funders in support of that goal.

Would you join us in that effort?  You can do so by:

  • Contacting our Administrator for discussion of major gifts, as well as your ideas and connections.
  • Become a Member of AI and Faith here. If you are an expert, apply to to add your expertise to our work.
  • Give what you are able through the end of this year to support our work and demonstrate the breadth and depth of our funding community.

Thank you and Blessings in this holiday season and the momentous year ahead!

David Brenner

Currently serves as the board chair of AI and Faith. For 35 years he practiced law in Seattle and Washington DC, primarily counseling clients and litigating claims related to technology, risk management and insurance. He is a graduate of Stanford University and UC Berkeley’s Law School.

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