“Virtuous AI?: Cultural Evolution, Artificial Intelligence, and Virtue”

Introducing Virtuous AI Research Project & Conference

The Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences (CTNS) is hosting three online conferences in the summer of 2023 as part of its new grant, “Virtuous AI?: Cultural Evolution, Artificial Intelligence, and Virtue”: A research program of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences (CTNS). More information can be found here. The conferences will be focused on time zones centered on Seoul, Berkeley and Rome.  This is to encourage participation by AI scientists and humanities scholars from a wide variety of religious and philosophical perspectives, cultural traditions, and geographic locations.


The subject of these conferences will focus on three core questions regarding virtue:

1. How and to what extent will AI influence the evolution of human culture and virtue? 

2. Can AI assist humans in the acquisition of virtue? 

3. Is AI itself capable of virtue? If so, are those virtues shared with or distinct from human virtues?

They will focus on three online international research conferences in June and July, 2023. Beforehand, participants will email their research papers to CTNS to circulate to, and be read in advance by, all participants before the conferences. The submission dates are Monday, April 10 for Berkeley participants, Monday, May 8, for Seoul participants, and Monday, May 22, for Rome participants. 


What are our objectives?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has become a ubiquitous actor increasingly integrated into our personal lives and culture.  This integration ranges from using AI as intelligent tools, from smartphones to autonomous vehicles, to incorporating AI directly into human society, such as intelligent machines active throughout the workforce and in our homes.  The extent of this integration into our lives and culture raises three core questions:

  • How and to what extent will AI influence human culture and its evolution?
  • Can AI assist humans in the acquisition of virtue? 
  • Is AI itself capable of virtue? And if so, are those virtues shared with or distinct from human virtues? 

These core questions provide the conceptual structure for our entire project focusing on the interaction between AI scientists and humanities scholars from around the world. 

Our objective in this project is for CTNS to explore these core questions surrounding AI, cultural evolution, and virtue in order to produce new interdisciplinary and intercultural insights into them. We will convene three entirely online conferences held in western and eastern contexts, including the geographic locations and the religious, philosophical, and social cultures of participating AI scientists and humanities scholars. They will produce a multi-volume publication, articles in scientific journals, journals on science and religion, journals on ethics and technology, as well as a variety of electronic, media resources posted on the CTNS website www.ctns.org and the GTU website www.gtu.edu.  

Of crucial importance is that, to date, and with a few exceptions, scholars tend to address the core questions separately and from a single cultural, ethical, or theological perspective.  The isolation in addressing the core questions and the narrowness of the perspectives used to address them underscore the limits of current practice.  Our “theory of change” is to bring these diverse scholars from AI research to humanities studies together for the first time in three conferences held in western and eastern contexts. These conferences will include the diverse geographic locations and the differing religious, philosophical, and social cultures of participating AI researchers and humanities scholars. The result will be a unique three-volume publication, each representing one of our three core questions and reflecting the diversity and interactions among these scholars. The result will also include a series of professional, educational, and public materials that lead toward a more diverse and intercultural understanding of human, and possible AI, virtues.


What is new or distinct about this project?

Our approach is new in three crucial ways:

First, the conferences will be interdisciplinary. Our goal is to place scientists who will present the latest developments in Artificial Intelligence into dialogue and interaction with humanities scholars who specialize in the study of culture, philosophy, theology, and virtue theory, thus making the outcomes distinctly interdisciplinary.

Second, these conferences will be focused on three different regions of the world to ensure they will represent cross-cultural and inter-religious perspectives.  We will select scientists and humanities scholars who represent Eastern and/or Western cultures, philosophies, and religions. These scholars will speak both from their own personal traditions and from the cultures where they live and work. 

Third, in addition to the invited scholars, we will issue a call for papers to further diversify the participants. We will encourage submissions from people from underrepresented perspectives, particularly scholars for whom AI and its implications are not their past specialization, and scholars from underrepresented regions and religions such as Islam and Judaism.  We feel strongly that these three features of our approach will ensure the success of our project: bringing together the latest AI research and situating it in a wide interdisciplinary and intercultural environment so that its striking implications for cultural evolution and virtue will be explored through a diversity of perspectives.

Three conferences will be held entirely online with three geographical foci: Berkeley for participants in North and South America; Seoul for participants in Asia; and Rome for participants in the UK, Europe, Africa and India. Each conference being entirely remote will maximize the number of outstanding participants without requiring them to travel to an event site. Typically participants will reside within four time zones of the event site in either direction. The public will also be invited to listen in to the conferences, and we will create Q&A sessions for their participation with the invited speakers. All participants will be encouraged to publish their presentations in popular and/or academic journals in science / AI research, and in science and religion and in ethics and technology.


“Virtuous AI?: Cultural Evolution, Artificial Intelligence, and Virtue” is a project funded in part by the John Templeton Foundation. CTNS is a program of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California.