Systematic Theology and Moral Theology Colloquium: Dr. Jeffrey Bishop, "Can your “digital twin” make your decisions for you?"


Location: 138 Debartolo Hall

"Can your “digital twin” make your decisions for you? The Metaphysics of (Technoscience’s) Morals or a (Christian) Moral Metaphysics"
Jeffrey P Bishop, MD, PhD

Can your “digital twin” make your decisions for you? Can an AI build the ethical society? There is a fundamental opposition in Western philosophy between several pairs of ideas that relate to humans, nature, and technology. Western technoscience is defined by these oppositions: techne and episteme (Plato); natural and artificial beings (Aristotle); human actor and nature (Bacon and Descartes). In each, the human is imagined to occupy an epistemological space that is somehow disentangled from “nature” and “culture”. We imagine ourselves as set apart from nature and culture, as master and possessor of natural and artificial beings. In the ethics of contemporary technoscience we are given to a formalist ethics that fits nicely into the formalisms of technoscience, whether we are speaking of the principlism that animates the dominant scripts of bioethics (Beauchamp and Childress) or the idea that we can design moral machines in tech ethics (Verbeek). In the main, technoscience imagines the human as an entity that stands apart from both nature and culture/technology, as the one who can write his or her ethics into the algorithms of our relationships to nature and to our culture. Many in Christian Ethics believe we can build Christian principles into the technologies in order to make them “ethical.”

I will describe the formalist ethics that emerged around bioethics, which was an ethics already entangled with the values of technoscientific culture. This formalistic ethics is now animating the work of AI ethics. Already, people are designing “digital twins” that will make “ethical” decisions for patients in medical ethics and for the larger society in AI ethics. I will argue that AI machines enact and materialize the power ontology and metaphysics that underwrites technoscience, and that these are not merely passive false idols, but very active demi-gods that control us. I will offer as an alternative the creaturely metaphysics as it is enacted in the Christian Eucharistic liturgy.