In the Spring of 2018, Iliff began a “lab” initiative to foster a culture of experimentation, exploration, and innovation throughout the institution. The guiding impulses for the labs are to reimagine theological education in a rapidly changing world, to further strengthen the quality of the Iliff experience, and to embolden Iliff’s impact in the public sphere.
The first of these labs has been focused on the increasingly relevant area of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Building upon the expertise of select Iliff board members, faculty, and staff, the AI Lab is creating spaces for conversations between theorists and practitioners of AI at Iliff and those developing AI in government and industry. The goal of these spaces will be to promote, inform, and support the development and implementation of AI, taking seriously the emerging ethical landscape brought about by our increasing relationships with machines. The Iliff AI lab leverages three years of active AI development in the Experimental Humanities Group at Iliff and intensive discussion of AI among faculty and board members.
Continuing the progressive legacy of Iliff, the AI Lab is primarily focused on four main questions:
- How can the rich tradition of theological anthropology speak usefully into current conversations about AI?
- How can the new frontiers of AI help us creatively imagine new possibilities for what it means to be human in the world?
- How do our approaches to ethics need to change given the unsustainable dichotomy between human and machine?
- What capacities are needed to equip scholars and AI practitioners to collaboratively and ongoingly address the emerging questions raised by the development and use of AI?
To pursue these questions, the Iliff AI Lab will focus on building partnerships with other organizations beyond the academy through accessible curricular development, hosting hybrid microconferences, building a platform for new models of online public scholarship, and developing open source programming tools to aid in the development of AI with these important questions in mind. Recently, Iliff applied for a substantial grant from the Henry Luce Foundation to fund new ways to engage theological education and scholarship with AI. The grant proposal fits intimately with the aims of the Iliff AI Lab and highlights Iliff’s strengths in theological anthropology, hybrid education, and digital humanities. Luce will hopefully be the first of several funding partners for this initiative. We look forward to what we will learn through the experiments run in the Iliff AI Lab.