Pastoral Virtues for Artificial Intelligence (AI) acknowledges that human destiny is intimately tied to artificial intelligence. AI already outperforms a person on most tasks. Our ever-deepening relationship with an AI that is increasingly autonomous mirrors our relationship to what is perceived as Sacred or Divine. Like God, AI awakens hope and fear in people, while giving life to some and taking livelihood, especially in the form of jobs, from others. AI, built around values of convenience, productivity, speed, efficiency, and cost reduction, serve humanity poorly, especially in moments that demand care and wisdom. This book explores the pastoral virtues of hope, patience, play, wisdom, and compassion as foundational to personal flourishing, communal thriving, and building a robust AI. Biases of determinism, speed, objectivity, ignorance, and apathy within AI's algorithms are identified. These biases can be minimized through the incorporation of pastoral virtues as values guiding AI.
Jaco J. Hamman is professor of religion, psychology, and culture and the director of the
program in theology and practice at Vanderbilt Divinity School.
Chapter 1 Hope: Acting now and waiting upon a preferred future
Chapter 2 Patience: Discovering time and remaining present
Chapter 3 Play: Finding possibility and unlocking potential
Chapter 4 Wisdom: Foreseeing consequences and doing the right thing
Chapter 5 Compassion: Witnessing and being moved to relieve suffering
About the Author
Many scholars in various fields and disciplines talk about and advocate for intersectionality, but, when they do so, they almost never include technology as an area for consideration, despite the fact that technology is one of the most central forces in our lives today. Jaco Hamman demonstrates why this is so needed, providing a rigorous analysis that is broad and deep, immensely important, and endlessly fascinating. Timely, creative, and insightful.
Jaco Hamman has written an original, thought-provoking, inter-discilplinary and highly creative book about a theme that will continue to engage humanity in the decades to come. Exploring the intersection of technology, humanity, and the resources of various scholarly disciplines and tradtions, he discloses new and surprising ways to think about our relationship with AI, drawing on well-known resources to open to new perspectives. This well-researched book points to a new context for old virtues, and should be read by everyone who wants to develop a more wise perspective on new AI technologies and their moral impact.
Professor Hamman artfully engages psychological, ethical, and theological intersections in this conversation with the frontiers of AI. While he accomplishes this with notable sophistication and breadth, his distinctive lens of pastoral theology and its commitment to the nurture of human flourishing characterizes this work throughout making it a truly distinctive contribution. The importance of this work cannot be overstated as AI “develops toward independence and autonomy.” His thoughtfully articulated “pastoral virtues” of wisdom and compassion are a necessity in these times.
In this daring and wide-ranging book, Jaco Hamman examines AI using a virtue ethics perspective, a novel and fascinating contribution to the growing literature on AI. Avoiding the extremes of neo-Luddism and naïve techno-optimism, Hamman offers pastoral guidance that users and designers of new technologies alike would be wise to consider. In the ease with which he integrates works in science, philosophy, theology, and other sources, Hamman exemplifies the kind of interdisciplinary dialogue that he rightly calls for in the book’s conclusion and that is so urgently needed today.
In Pastoral Virtues for Artificial Intelligence, Jaco Hamman has thought deeply about what it means to be human in our technological world. A wise guide, his writing invites AI programmers and pastoral theologians—and all readers who care about the intersections between human life and technology—to imagine our future together. Most helpful are the analytical frameworks and questions developed in each chapter to structure rich conversation. Hamman offers five virtues (hope, patience, play, wisdom, and compassion) that can help us avoid idol worship of AI and cultivate human flourishing as we move further into technology.
Jaco Hamman has written an important book that evenhandedly addresses the hopes and fears of a partnership with an increasingly independent, autonomous, and powerful AI. The fact that AI is changing everything, in particular the very nature of human life, is a fact of no small importance for both AI researchers and for pastoral theologians. By creatively introducing pastoral virtues as a guide for navigating the new terrain, it is hoped that the field of pastoral theology will see that our ever-deepening relationship with digital technology demands immediate and robust pastoral theological reflection.
Jaco Hamman’s book is a resource for anyone interested in the ways AI already influences our lives. It is a treasure for anyone wanting to think deeply about the implications of AI for flourishing for all people. Those curious about the possibilities for ethical and moral approaches to AI will find concrete and practical steps toward such a vision. A unique text in pastoral theology, Pastoral Virtues for Artificial Intelligence: Care and the Algorithms that Guide Us offers nuanced insight into a topic that implicates us all.