Monday, 30 June 2014

Data Dreams - A Catholic Perspective on Artificial Intelligence

By Eric Hanna, S.J.


“Data, if you ever do realize your dream of becoming human, I don't think you'll be a bad one.”
Star Trek: The Next Generation

It is wrong to assume that a religious understanding of the sacredness of life is automatically opposed to the concept of artificial intelligence. We believe that human souls are sacred … but does this imply that an intelligent machine, being non-human, must be a soulless impossibility? What is sacred about intelligence? What can be sacred about machines? To begin to answer these questions I offer a few philosophical and theological tools. At the moment, human-like artificial intelligence is but a dream: an unknown possibility. But exploring our dreams can help us learn more about ourselves.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Appetite for Convenience

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.

Credit: www.thinkstockphotos.com

I am on the road again. Being part of the Jesuit Mission Band means travelling, driving from one city to the next, and moving from a Jesuit community to a hotel and vice versa. Being on the road implies living out of a backpack or a suitcase, having a different schedule every day, and dining out very often. At times, all of this leaves me out of sync, exposed, and a bit vulnerable. Without the stability and structure of a routine and a more consistent schedule, I feel like an octopus on roller-blades. When it comes to planning my meals, I never know what the next meal will look like. As days go by on our retreat tour, I find myself going for what is convenient, trying to be sensitive to the culinary preferences of others, and losing the self-restraint not to binge on a bag of Tostitos forty-five minutes after we’ve had lunch.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Staying Connected in Another Way

By Edmund Lo, S.J.


To begin this blog entry, I would first invite you to imagine the faces of those with whom you have stayed in contact. They can be loved ones, families from afar, old friends, new acquaintances, and so on. Recall the bond that makes you want to remain in contact with this person. This is the “who”s.

Secondly, think about the ways in which you have remained in contact with these people. It can be a short text message from your smart phone, or “liking” the Facebook update of another. You may prefer old-school methods such as writing an email, or a hand-written letter. Perhaps you are reliant on your Facebook account or Google Calendar to remind you of their birthdays; I know I am. This is the “how”s.

Monday, 23 June 2014

To Bee or Not to Bee

By Artur Suski, S.J.

Credit: http://u.osu.edu/

His labour is a chant, 
His idleness a tune; 
Oh, for a bee's experience 
Of clovers and of noon! 
(From The Bee, by Emily Dickinson)

There has been a lot written in the bee world during these last couple of years regarding what researchers call “Colony Collapse Disorder” (CCD). Bee colonies throughout the world have been dying off at a dangerous rate. It was only after I had watched the documentary Vanishing of the Bees that I fully grasped the serious problem at hand.

Friday, 20 June 2014

In the Land of the Midnight Sun

As dark as it gets in June. 
"Setting Sun" at Trappers Lake
(Photo: Krissy Chua)
By John D. O'Brien, S.J.

Time has become a little relative at this point in our journey. We've only been here four days. But each day has become like a week.  — Aiden Wickey

A service trip is a little like being on a retreat. Your "normal life" recedes quickly. You've left behind routines, comforts, and habits. You are plunged in a different land. You are faced with new challenges, above all, those that are within yourself.

For four days now, we've lived at Trapper's Lake Spirituality Centre, a lodge with cabins located a few minutes drive from Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories. There is no spring here. A few weeks ago, ice still covered the lakes, while now we sweat in dry heat, and generally bask in the nearly 24-hour sunshine.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Missing Mass with the Pope

By Adam Hincks, S.J.

Santa Maria di Trastevere, Rome.

Kyrk þerinne watȝ non ȝete,         No church building was there [in heaven]
Chapel ne temple þat euer watȝ set.   Nor was chapel or temple ever set there.
– Pearl

This month I am at the Vatican Observatory just outside Rome, helping with their biannual summer school, about which I will probably write an article when it is finished. In the meantime, one of the many benefits of the school is its relative proximity to the Eternal City, which I visited on Pentecost Sunday. I was greeted at the bus stop by fellow Canadian, Fr. Michael Czerny, S.J., who lives a stone’s throw from St. Peter’s Basilica. We had originally intended to attend the mass at the basilica, but due to a mix-up in our scheduling, it had already started by the time I arrived. So instead, we went to a small chapel in the Jesuit curia a couple of blocks away and the two of us celebrated mass there.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Setting my Missionary Heart Before the Open Road Ahead

By Br. Daniel Leckman, S.J.


Every year, around the time of Pentecost, I’m invited to reflect upon the work of the Spirit in my own life and how I respond to that work. It’s that second part that always troubles me. I know the spirit has done wonders in my life. The problem is I don’t always see the fruits of her work in my own response. Of course, me not seeing my response to the Spirit does not mean it’s not there. It just means I’m too impatient or restless to really see it.

This year, I feel I was able not only to see the fruits of the Spirit in my life: I could even taste them. In fact, it feels like all of my senses were involved in developing a greater consciousness and appreciation of both the gifts and my response to them. Two things helped me get to that point of awareness.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Want to Pray More? Start By Doing Your Laundry

By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.

thinkstockphotos.com

I promised you a very different follow up to my entry on why young adults don’t pray. You probably imagined a list with amazing tips to pray more. But the more I thought about it, and the more I talked to friends, I realized this is the entry I needed to write for today.

Reading is my beautiful escape and comfort. I read to know that I am not alone. I read to live a thousand lives all at once. It is a great pleasure to devour a book – to be transported to other worlds, to explore all the secrets of a story, to be intoxicated with the ardor to change the world. A good book is both portable magic and a marvelous companion, for it amuses me and attends to the cares of my soul. But, for me, there is nothing easy about reading a book. I find myself reading all sorts of magazine articles and online essays, but giving my full and undivided attention to a book is a different matter.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Being Mature: On the Legalisation of Euthanasia

By Edmund Lo, S.J.

Image: footage.shutterstock.com

What does it mean by being “mature” as a society?

It is the word used by Madame Véronique Hivon, the MNA from the Québec provincial legislature. She spearheaded the passing of Bill 52, which legalised euthanasia in this Canadian province last week. She suggested that the citizens in the province of Québec are mature enough to discuss sensitive matters such as this. A similar issue (physician-assisted suicide) has already been discussed on our blog, and it is not my intention to repeat what has already been said. Rather, I would like to (no puns intended) take a stab at the mentality of “mature”.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Communion in Diversity – The Other Churches

By Artur Suski, S.J.

Credit: http://thehouses1.blogspot.com

A Roman Catholic priest walks into an elementary class and leads the students in prayer. He asks all to begin with the sign of the cross, “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”. He quickly notices that one of the girls in the class crossed herself the wrong way. “No, dear, we cross ourselves from left to right – you’re doing it wrong.” The priest continued to come to that class for a number of years and every time he used the opportunity to correct the girl’s “wrong way of crossing herself.” In reality, she was of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church. This and many similar stories are known to many of us. Alas, this true story, which took place in the 1950s in the US, exemplifies the lack of acceptance, and to some extent, the lack of respect, for the non-Latin rites in the Catholic communion before Vatican II.

Friday, 6 June 2014

I [Heart] What?

By John D. O’Brien, SJ 



We often hear about “the heart “ in our religion. We try to be “pure of heart” and we “lift our hearts to the Lord” in the Mass. But what does “the heart” actually mean. Do we have a coherent Christian understanding of what we are referring to?

Once, in an earlier chapter of my life, and in a spirit of lament, I wrote a poem about feeling detached from my heart, about the takeover of the mental and the loss of feeling in my life. It went something like this:

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Misology: A Most Terrible Disease

By Adam Hincks, S.J.


A little learning is a dangerous thing
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.

– Pope

The human race is afflicted by many diseases, but one of the great benefits of modern science has been the successful elimination or treatment of a great number of them. And although some illnesses remain, there is still reasonable hope that they, too, will be conquered by medical progress. But there are some diseases which medicine of the body will never be able to confront. Their cures lie only in the will of the diseased.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Conquering the World and Other Career Skills, Using Games for Education

By Eric Hanna, S.J.


How do we use the medium of video games for the good of education? Misused, games have the potential to enervate and isolate. If used properly, games can impart skills for critical thinking, communication, and creativity. We must learn to look for ways to identify and promote the best aspects of games in order to make use of the medium in education.

Like most media, the first forays into video game use for education had flaws. Many will remember "typing tutour" without fondness. Early educational games rammed historical or scientific facts into a shallow, cartoonish narrative. Real-world facts can play a part in a fun game: I know a lot of world capitals thanks to "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego". But games can be used for much more.