Risk, Anxiety, and Prudence in an Age of Algorithmic Governance
The first examination of predictive technology from the perspective of Catholic theology
Probabilistic predictions of future risk govern much of society. In business and politics alike, institutional structures manage risk by controlling the behavior of consumers and citizens. New technologies comb through past data to predict and shape future action. Choosing between possible future paths can cause anxiety as every decision becomes a calculation to achieve the most optimal outcome.
Tomorrow’s Troubles is the first book to use virtue ethics to analyze these pressing issues. Paul Scherz uses a theological analysis of risk and practical reason to show how risk-based decision theory reorients our relationships to the future through knowledge of possible dangers and foregone opportunities—and fosters a deceptive hope for total security. Scherz presents this view of temporality as problematic because it encourages a desire for stability through one’s own efforts instead of reliance on God. He also argues that the largest problem with predictive models is that they do not address individual reason and free will. Instead of dwelling on a future, we cannot control, we can use our past experiences and the Christian tradition to focus on discerning God’s will in the present.
Tomorrow’s Troubles offers a thoughtful new framework that will help Christians benefit from the positive aspects of predictive technologies while recognizing God’s role in our lives and our futures.
1. From Contingency to Probability
Part I: The Subjective Experience of Risk
2. Practical Reason and Probability Theory
3. Anxiety and the Temporality of Risk
4. The Hunger for Security
Part II: The Governance of Others as Object of Risk
5. The Shifting Meaning of Probability
6. Responsibility for Risk
7. Probabilistic Mechanisms of Control
8. Algorithms and the Demonic
Part III: A Christian Approach to Risk and Decision Theory
9. Christian Responsibility
10. The Role of Risk Assessment in Prudential Judgment
11. The Epimethean Society
"Tomorrow’s Troubles provides the careful ethical analysis we need to make sense of the dilemmas we face in our everyday lives today. As epitomized in the global pandemic, a probabilistic pursuit of risk minimization has effectively become the default criterion for both social deliberation and personal moral evaluation, yet few have interrogated the ethical implications of this trend. In Tomorrow’s Troubles, Paul Scherz not only tackles these critical questions but also develops the theological and ethical tools to help us put the assessment of risk into its proper place, at the service of a genuine practice of prudential judgment."—Conor M. Kelly, associate professor of theology, Marquette University
"Tomorrow's Troubles is a prophetic work calling readers to reevaluate the entire sociotechnical world. Technology, risk management, culture, and our mentality have distorted our core Christian commitments such as trust in God's providence and love for our neighbor. I'll be thinking about this book for a long time."—Brian Patrick Green, director of technology ethics, Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, Santa Clara University
"[T]his is a book that fully merits careful reading and consideration. It succeeds in doing what too few books on applied theology do, in that it draws deeply both on theology and on the particular issue to produce a new way of thinking about the issue and responding practically."—THEOLOGY
"This book will be helpful to theologians, ethicists, pastors, and educated laypeople with a strong background in at least one of the traditions Scherz draws on: Thomism, pre-Christian Greco-Roman philosophy (especially Stoicism), and mid-20th-century Protestant ethics of responsibility (e.g., H. Richard Niebuhr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer)."—Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics
"[A]s a guide to life on an individual level, Scherz's paradigm has much to offer."—Law and Liberty
Paul Scherz is an associate professor of moral theology and ethics in the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America. He is the author of Science and Christian Ethics. He has a PhD in theology from the University of Notre Dame and a PhD in genetics from Harvard University.
280 pp., 6 x 9
280 pp., 6 x 9
Moral Traditions series
David Cloutier, Darlene Weaver, and Andrea Vicini, SJ