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Leading Change: Faith and Tech
Originally published on LinkedIn Aug. 13, 2023
This summer just flew by and I'll be heading back to school again myself this fall to continue my LL.M.* in Elder Law studies at Stetson University College of Law. We'll also be returning to the St. Peterburg Vinoy Renaissance in October for the 25th annual Conference on Special Needs Planning and Special Needs Trusts, so if this is an area you are interested in, highly recommend planning to attend, esp. for the pre-conference intensives on VA benefits, Social Security and Tax Law.
There will be plenty of time to focus on what I'm learning there in later editions, but this summer I've been spending more time learning about different interfaith community perspectives and approaches towards both technology and elder care. With AI being a frequent topic of conversation, the AI & Faith community response to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Request for Information on National Priorities for Artificial Intelligence was enlightening and encouraging. Here is the full 10-page response, but of course the key takeaway from this is any AI policy that ignores a faith perspective is inherently incomplete.
"Too often technologists, often disconnected and geographically separated from the communities they are trying to serve, create products which gain traction with market movers and cultural influencers but further entrench discriminatory practices into communities that were never engaged in the first place." -- AI&F
This isn't the first time the significance of a faith perspective has been acknowledged in discussions around AI. Earlier this year, representatives across the Abrahamic faiths joined leaders from IBM and Microsoft to reinforce the Rome Call for AI Ethics.
"The Rome Call for AI Ethics (www.romecall.org) was signed in February 2020 by some of the world’s leading tech companies (Microsoft and IBM), together with the [Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations] FAO and representatives of the Italian Government. The Call binds its signatories to comply with its principles, in terms of transparency, inclusion, accountability, impartiality, reliability, security and privacy."
Some of the most innovative applications of AI are in the health care space, and this is especially encouraging for those involved in elder care and special needs planning who are keenly aware of the potential shortages of in-home care assistance as more people are living longer than ever before. See, e.g., The Crisis Facing Nursing Homes, Assisted Living and Home Care for America’s Elderly and Americans See AI Becoming Part of In-Home Elder Care Services.
But this is also why holistic planning requires familiarity and attention to spiritual health, along with physical, mental, social and financial wellbeing. Eboo Patel, Founder of Interfaith America, made the case for religion as a model for health at the Chautauqua Institution recently:
“Faith is deeply committed not just to the elevation of the soul, but the health of the body.” -- Eboo Patel
And when dealing with elder care and special needs, understanding and respecting an individual and family's faith and beliefs can be determinative in what may be acceptable actions and outcomes over the course of one's life. Equipping future leaders in this space to respect and integrate these considerations in solutions and treatments, from both a technology and health care perspective, can make a world of difference to the next generation of elders needing more holistic care.
This is also why I am encouraged by the work of organizations like the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, who recognize the importance of religious liberty and the role of faith in the marketplace and workplace. They have hosted several informative panels on faith and tech, esp. faith and AI, over the years, the most recent one just last month on Navigating Ethical Implications of AI in HR - How Faith & Belief can Contribute. Whether by uniting government, business and technology leaders, supporting employee resource groups, or raising awareness of religious freedom issues in society, the role of faith in so many aspects of our lives needs to be acknowledged more to be able to anticipate and meet the often unarticulated needs of patients, citizens, clients, customers, and other constituents potentially served through AI in the future.
I am also looking forward to learning more from the Parliament of the World's Religions meeting this week in Chicago. Although I will be participating virtually, there is plenty going on this week to supplement many of the topics covered last week during Interfaith Awareness Week hosted by the World Interfaith Network.
If you're a learn-it-all like me, there's always more to discover about different faith and spiritual traditions and how much they have in common when it comes to establishing norms on ethics and wellbeing. Whether you'll be online or in person, if you're also attending PoWR 2023, connect with me on the event site - it would be great to learn from you, too!
AI and Faith https://aiandfaith.org/, OSTP response https://www.linkedin.com/posts/aiandfaith_aif-ostp-ai-rfi-response-activity-7091965774545776640-u0-I and https://aiandfaith.org/aif-responds-to-white-house-rfi-on-national-ai-strategy/
DeRose, Jason. "Parliament of the World's Religions hopes to show people the good that faith can do," NPR, Aug. 10, 2023, available at https://www.npr.org/2023/08/10/1193311564/parliament-of-the-worlds-religions-hopes-to-show-people-the-good-that-faith-can-
Grant, Adam. "Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella: How Empathy Sparks Innovation," Knowledge at Wharton, Feb. 22, 2018, available at https://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/microsofts-ceo-on-how-empathy-sparks-innovation/
Interfaith America https://www.interfaithamerica.org/
Lane, Terry. "Americans See AI Becoming Part of In-Home Elder Care Services," Investopedia, Aug. 8, 2023, available at https://www.investopedia.com/americans-see-ai-becoming-part-of-elder-care-services-7568579
Moe, Alexandra. "The Crisis Facing Nursing Homes, Assisted Living and Home Care for America’s Elderly," Politico, Jul. 28, 2022, available at https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2022/07/28/elder-care-worker-shortage-immigration-crisis-00047454
Parliament of the World's Religions 2023 https://app.powr.org/e/2023powr
Religious Freedom & Business Foundation https://religiousfreedomandbusiness.org/
Rome Call for AI Ethics, https://www.romecall.org/the-call
Stetson University College of Law Special Needs Trust Conference https://www.stetson.edu/law/conferences/snt/ and https://web.cvent.com/event/a6f3d1db-6167-40da-8273-df111f937d43/summary
Toth, Sara. "Patel Makes Case for ‘Leaning In’ to Religion as Model for Health," Interfaith America, Aug. 2, 2023, available at https://www.interfaithamerica.org/article/religion-as-model-for-health/
Vatican News, "Multi-religious signature of the Rome Call for AI Ethics," at
White House Office of Science and Technology Policy https://www.whitehouse.gov/ostp/
White House OSTP Request for Information; National Priorities for Artificial Intelligence https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2023/05/26/2023-11346/request-for-information-national-priorities-for-artificial-intelligence and https://www.regulations.gov/docket/OSTP-TECH-2023-0007
World Interfaith Network https://world-interfaith.com/ and Interfaith Awareness Week https://world-interfaith.com/interfaith-awareness-week/