Church of England questions ethics of investment in Artificial intelligence

Determining whether some new technologies undermine "the very idea of God"


Afp December 24, 2019
China released a national AI development plan late on Thursday. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON: The Church of England has launched a study into an existential question: do its investments in big-tech giants contradict the Christian faith?

The Church's Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG) will determine whether some of the new technologies undermine "the very idea of God", a spokesman for the Church told AFP on Monday.

The year-long review was first reported by The Daily Telegraph newspaper.

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EIAG was set up in the early 1990s to help make sure that more than £12 billion ($15.5 billion, 14 billion euros) in assets held by the Church's various institutions are put to ethical use.

"Artificial intelligence (AI) is an important element of this review," the spokesman said.

The EIAG is in talks with technology experts as well as politicians and theologians "to try to make sense of the issues", the spokesman said.

It wants to reach a conclusion "that is not only grounded in theology and distinctly Anglican but is also practical", he added.

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EIAG did not specify how much money the Church has invested in the likes of Google's parent company Alphabet and Amazon.

The Church's 2018 annual report also reported investments in drug development companies AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline.

"Some argue that tech has brought enormous benefits to society but others note a growing realisation of the limitations and downsides of technology," the spokesman said.

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