Being Franciscan at the Crossroads: Artificial Intelligence & Climate Change

Sharing a recent editorial from the New York Times (and distributed in the Pioneer Press) today concerning the crucial and pivotal power and social relevance of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and climate change in our current times. By way of introduction, a few observations of our Secular Franciscan Rule will help the reader understand the connection between Franciscan tradition, and contemporary social issues like Artificial Intelligence and climate change.

Secular Franciscan Rule #11 states:

Let them be mindful that according to the gospel they are stewards of the goods received for the benefit of God’s children.

Secular Franciscan Rule #15 states:

Let them individually and collectively be in the forefront in promoting justice by the testimony of heir human lives and their courageous initiatives. Especially in the field of public life, they should make definite choices in harmony with their faith.

Secular Franciscan Rule # 18 states:

Moreover they should respect all creatures, animate and inanimate, which “bear the imprint of the Most High,” and they should strive to move from the temptation of exploiting creatures to the Franciscan concept of universal kinship.

The editorial by Thomas Friedman is entitled, We Are Opening the Lids on Two Giant Pandora’s Boxes, and invites the reader to consider the immense benevolent and malevolent potential of Artificial Intelligence, as well as the power of climate change to determine humanity’s future. Challenging and compelling statements in the editorial include:

I have a simple rule: The faster the pace of change and the more godlike powers we humans develop, the more everything old and slow matters more than ever — the more everything you learned in Sunday school, or from wherever you draw ethical inspiration, matters more than ever.

Because the wider we scale artificial intelligence, the more the golden rule needs to scale: Do unto others as you would wish them to do unto you. Because given the increasingly godlike powers we’re endowing ourselves with, we can all now do unto each other faster, cheaper and deeper than ever before.

Bottom line: These two big Pandora’s boxes are being opened. God save us if we acquire godlike powers to part the Red Sea but fail to scale the Ten Commandments.

Keith Warner, O.F.M. has done some scholarly writing on Franciscan social philosophy and ethics that may help further illuminate the Franciscan way in these contemporary issues and challenges. For example, see his paper, Retrieving Franciscan Philosophy for Social Engagement.

(art credit: Epimethius Opening Pandora’s Jar, Giulio Bonasone, 1531-1576)

Are you feeling called to bring a perspective of wisdom, Catholic faith, and love for humanity and creation in responding to society’s contemporary challenges? Are you studying for or working in a profession of bringing perspective to society’s contemporary challenges? Or maybe you find yourself in that role within your community or family? Are you considering whether the Secular Franciscan Order (O.F.S.) would bring and grow the spiritual dimension in your daily life and work? We would love to hear from you! E-mail the St. Cloud Fraternity of Secular Franciscans at

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