Fr. Sean McDonagh explores our digital future in new book

by Fr. Sean McDonagh

What would we do without our technology? Researchers have used Artificial Intelligence to find vaccines for the coronavirus in a record-breaking nine months, platforms such as WhatsApp and Zoom have enabled millions of families to communicate with each other during the pandemic and Alexa is now a common presence and aid in the home today. But have we considered the deeper implications of this technology? Fr. Séan McDonagh has and reflects on this in his latest book.

In his new book Robots, Ethics and the Future of Jobs, well-known environmentalist and author Fr. Séan McDonagh demonstrates that the same tools that we use to connect, protect and support us can also be put to use in ways that have a huge negative impact on our privacy, our freedom and our life choices.

Thus, the software that guided the track-and-trace efforts in combating the coronavirus could be used to trace migrants or refugees; drones and robots used in the retail, education, hospitality, manufacturing and building industries certainly create efficiencies but will have a huge negative impact on jobs in the future, potentially knocking up to 40%-50% of people out of permanent jobs in these sectors.

Fr McDonagh argues that we need to understand and address the potential repercussions of developing technology in an ethical vacuum. Our digital future is fast approaching with little regulation and few institutional policies and protections.

Respect for human rights must be at the heart of these new technologies.

Karlin Lillington, who has written the foreword to the book calls it an accessible and thoughtful look at these fascinating, yet disturbing technologies, poised to bring societal change of the magnitude of the Industrial Revolution.

Professor John Sweeny, former president of An Taisce says, As we enter the Brave New World where control and automation potentially remove our hard fought freedoms as well as our jobs, this book asks searching questions of how society should respond ethically to the threats posed.

Former president of Ireland, Professor Mary McAleese also draws attention to the potential polarisation of society: This hugely informative book shakes us out of our massage armchairs and demands that we engage immediately with these galloping advances so we can shape them to the benefit of the many and not leave them to the enrichment of the few at the awful cost of the impoverishment of swathes of humanity.

Pat Cox, President of the European Parliament (2004-2007) summarised the book as …a wakeup call for political, civic, media and church leaders, urging a response to the deepening and accelerating pace of technological change and its potential consequences.

Robots, Ethics and the Future of Jobs by Séan McDonagh, with a foreword by Karlin Lillington, is an accessible and thought-provoking look at the potential of new technology to bring about seismic societal change and a call for discourse and decisions to ensure the best outcomes for humanity.

It is published in Ireland and the UK by Messenger Publications and prices at €19.95. To order your own copy please visit the website, or call 00-353-1-676 7491.

The book will be launched by Dr. John Sweeney and Dr. Lorna Gold on Zoom on 4th March 2021 at 7pm. If you would like to attend the Zoom book launch, please register your interest by emailing Carolanne Henry,  Communications and Marketing Executive for Messenger Publications –