Students Crack the Code of Learning Machines during a Discussion on the Ethics of AI

By Zach Krauss

On Tuesday, students from all over campus were invited to “A Christian Response to Artificial Intelligence,” the second seminar in a series on applied ethics for Christians. Faculty from three different departments discussed the history of computer science, specifically focusing on artificial intelligence, along with a time for audience questions and answers.

Students from all over campus attended as three different fields collaborated on the interdisciplinary event. Dr. Dan Dewitt, director of the Center for Biblical Apologetics and Public Christianity and professor of theology, represented the school of Biblical and Theological Studies; mathematics professor Dr. Adam Hammet represented the Science and Mathematics department; and Dr. Seth Hamman, director of the Center for the Advancement of Cybersecurity and professor of computer science, represented Engineering and Computer Science.

The faculty discussion portion involved a broad overview of what artificial intelligence is, and how it looks today compared to when the concept was first conceived. Dr. Hammett said that he believes that artificial intelligence is an important topic because it has far-reaching implications for a biblical worldview.

“I’m most excited for students to come away with an understanding of what the pertinent issues are when it comes to AI,” Hammett said. “I hope that students will find themselves inspired to explore this interesting topic more on their own.”

Dr. Hammett said that a difficult aspect of the discussion would be convincing people that there’s something deeper going on when a human being “thinks” than a computer is able to reproduce.

“It has been my experience that even Cedarville students have largely believed that our brains are simply complicated organic computers,” Hammett said. “But this is what materialists believe, and should not be a baseline assumption for the believer.”

Nathanael Oleander, junior computer science major, said that he enjoyed being able to hear three of his favorite professors talk about a topic that he’s heard a lot about in the past. 

“As we move into this kind of future where we have computers getting smaller and smaller in phones and watches, a lot of questions begin to surface that we have to talk about,” Oleander said. “I think it’s good for people in other fields to begin to talk about these issues and the ethics behind them, because these conversations will keep happening in the future.”

Oleander said that the event is helpful for those that might not know much about computer science or understand what goes into artificial intelligence.

“A lot of people just think of Alexa, Siri, or the Google Assistant when it comes to AI, but it’s so much more than that,” Oleander said. “Artificial intelligence is being used in fields across the board, and there are a lot of questions that need to be asked.”

This seminar was one step toward asking some of those questions, and integrating Christian ethics into that discussion. The next ethics seminar will be on Nov. 14, at 8:00 p.m., covering the topic of “Marketplace Missions: how Christians can better use their vocational platform for the advance of the gospel.”

Zach Krauss is a first year professional student in the School of Pharmacy from Temple, Texas, and serves as an on- and off-campus reporter for Cedars. He enjoys music, theatre, biology, and building community.

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