“Look, perhaps the Pope is ahead of everyone. He may not be aware of technology in detail, but he certainly has clear that the environment is the problem. That is where we play for the future”. He’s been very clear Father Philip Larrey, 57 years old, Dean of the Philosophy Department at the Pontifical Lateran University. He hails from Mountain View, California “I was born there when there was only an air force base., now Google has bought it”. But that’s not the only reason why, besides being a Catholic priest, he’s also a big expert in technology, digital and artificial intelligence.
Themes that led him to join the latest editions of the World Economic Forum in Davos, a symposium that every winter brings together directors, intellectuals and politicians at the highest levels and, that drove him to publish Connected World, a series of interesting interviews with some of the leading players in a fast changing world. They range from Eric Schmidt, one of Google’s bosses, to Don Norman, a high-tech design guru, from Bill Shores, mobile phone pioneer, to Anders Sandberg, the minds behind the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford. Besides this, the book covers other topics such as communication, nuclear power and IT security.
Q: Topics that have increasingly evident links with that problem that is so dear to the Pope.
A: The Creation, our common home, as he calls it. He’s right. Taking care of it, for those who follow these issues, is central.
A: The most controversial aspects of digital technologies relate to society rather than to the environment. And these are problems that have been discussed for quite a while. They crop up, for example, in The Social Dilemma, the new Netflix documentary that shows the dark side of social media, do you know? Dependence on the network, its impact on families. These are visible effects and on a philosophical level, too, their impact is strong. We are now talking about transhumanism, brain implants, the fusion of man and machine. But the environmental factor is also gaining a lot of ground among those who study these things. I see that directors and companies are very sensitive to the subject. There is a whole movement concerned with the relationship between ecology and technology, between green and blue, as Luciano Floridi, the Oxford philosopher calls it, with an expression more and more used. It has also become an editorial project in La Repubblica.
Q: In your opinion, what are the most controversial points?
A: Some of them were emphasized by Floridi in the interview he gave you. In my point of view, it’s indicative. Basically, you have to remember that not all that glitters is gold. Artificial intelligence, for example, requires an industrial quantity of electricity and therefore energy sources. Sure, it promises more efficiency, but it absorbs resources too. See the example of Look at DeepMind, Google’s artificial intelligence project, which created an algorithm to optimise consumption at data centres. The use of some technologies does not mean in itself an advantage for the environment, it’s an investment in the future. But we will be dependent on oil for years to come.