Navigating communication in the digital age

Artificial intelligence (AI) holds the promise of making vast troves of knowledge accessible like never before.

May 10, 2024

By Daniel Roy Santiyagu
Artificial intelligence (AI) holds the promise of making vast troves of knowledge accessible like never before. It has the power to bridge language barriers and sustain digital connections, as evidenced during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as we marvel at its rapid development and widespread adoption, we must remember that AI, including innovations like ChatGPT, while impressive, lacks the essential human capacity for wisdom. It can provide information but not the depth of insight that comes from the human heart.

As we reflect on the theme for the 58th World Day for Social Communications, Artificial Intelligence and the Wisdom of the Heart: Towards a Fully Human Communication, Pope Francis calls us to heed the importance of integrating technological advancements with our innate humanity. In a world at risk of being “rich in technology and poor in humanity,” we must cultivate wisdom of the heart. This wisdom allows us to navigate the complexities of our decisions, relationships, and societal challenges with compassion and integrity.

While AI facilitates digital connections, it also presents the danger of isolating us from authentic human interaction. Our reliance on AI-driven communication risks distancing us from the warmth and empathy that only human connections can offer. Moreover, the proliferation of fake news in digital spaces challenges our ability to discern truth and preserve our humanity amidst technological progress.

In the realm of Catholic communications, where social media platforms play a crucial role in disseminating information and fostering community, we are called to exercise discernment and responsibility. While social media can serve as a tool for spreading love and serving others, it also carries the risk of manipulation and domination. Thus, it is imperative to uphold truth, engage with human experiences, and safeguard the dignity of every individual. Our use of technology should enhance human dignity and promote the Gospel’s message of love and truth. However, if misused, these technologies could foster divisions and undermine the very fabric of our human community.

Moreover, the integration of AI into our operations offers immense potential. AI assists in translating documents and materials into our local languages, streamlining and automating repetitive tasks like scheduling social media postings. This saves time and resources, allowing us to focus more on meaningful engagement and service.

There are already some sessions and formations being organised in our respective arch/dioceses to discuss the ethical implications of AI. By having more open conversations and exploring its potential benefits and drawbacks, the Catholic Churches in our region can ensure AI is used responsibly and ethically. AI is a developing field. The way it impacts churches will likely continue to evolve in the coming years.

Pope Francis, in his message for the World Day of Peace on January 1, 2024, noted that if used rightly, AI could significantly enhance sectors like agriculture, education, and culture, potentially improving life for entire nations while fostering human fraternity and social friendship.

Yet, the critical measure of our humanity, as Pope Francis urges, is how we utilise AI to include and uplift the marginalised and needy. This inclusivity is the true benchmark of our humanistic application of technology.

The rapid evolution of AI and tools like ChatGPT raises pertinent questions about the future of traditional media, including print. While AI may change how we consume media, it is unlikely to cause the demise of print media entirely. Instead, it presents an opportunity for convergence, where traditional and digital media coexist, each serving unique needs and preferences.

Finally, we must consider whether our reliance on AI, like ChatGPT, for tasks such as writing, may impede the development of our talents. As Catholic communicators, it is vital to balance the use of these tools with the cultivation of our intellectual and spiritual gifts, ensuring it enhances our potential rather than diminishes it. Let’s reflect on how we can integrate AI with wisdom and compassion, enriching both our communication and our humanity.

(Daniel Roy Santiyagu, Chairman, Episcopal Regional Commission for Social Communication)

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