Session 1: Social Justice — God is Dead — Feb 27 : See Video, Slides, Questions, Bibliography & Notes here. The 19th-century saw the rise of Electric technology, replacing Print as society’s psycho-environmental ground — while generating both socialism/communism and the robber barons. In response, the Catholic Church invented the notion of “social justice,” attempting to reassert Natural Law while addressing the widely growing conflicts. Hostile states responded by isolating the Church, launching “culture wars,” and ultimately fomenting revolution. Nietzsche’s dramatic assertion underpinned a wide range of social movements — both on the left and the right
Session 2: The Encyclicals — Disenchantment of the World — Mar 6 — See Video, Slides, Questions, Bibliography & Notes Here: Pope Leo XIII aggressively responded with encyclicals including “Aeterni Patris” (1879, retrieving St.Thomas Aquinas) and “Rerun Novarum” (1891, establishing Catholic Social Teaching). Forty years later, Pope Pius XII expanded CST in his “Quadragessima Anno” (1931, a cornerstone of the Church’s anti-Marxist “Catholic International”). On the 100th anniversary, Pope John Paul II issued his “Centesimus Annus” (1991, from which grew CAPP, the lay organization tasked to spread CST). But few heeded the Church’s call.
Session 3: Human Dignity — Faculties of the Soul
Mar 13 — RSVP & See Slides Here: : In the process, the Church’s authority about the character of the human soul (“psyche” in Greek, “anima” in Latin) was severely undermined, as “experimental” psychology took over. Still, underneath Freud’s hostility to religion, a remnant of a Viennese Catholic psychic understanding lurks in the shadows of his theories. Even that has now been discarded and replaced with Cognitive Psychology, modeling humans on computers. Increasingly marginalized, the Church seemed to withdraw, pressured by the rising social sciences, with many relying on a “mystical” interpretation of God’s relationship with humanity. We forgot Aquinas’s Aristotelean Faculty Psychology and manipulating the soul became a social engineering imperative.
Session 4: Human Dignity — Artificial Humanity — Mar 20 — See Video, Slides, Bibliography, Lecture Notes, Comments and Questions Here: Under Digital conditions, this failure to fully understand the unique qualities of the human soul has led to aggressive efforts to build “artificial humans.” If, as modern psychology asserts, humans are simply “information processors,” then why can’t they be replaced by immortal machines? Under the banner of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), and fueled by super-power rivalries, these attempts already consume massive resources. A new “arms race” is
underway. A return to a deep comprehension of the “psyche” is urgently needed and the Church must lead in its retrieval.
Session 5: Subsidiarity — End of Mass Society — Mar 27 — See Video, Slides, Bibliography and Lecture Notes Here: As Electric technology overtook the world in the 20th-century, it generated a society that treated humans as mere elements of the “collective.” Welcome to the Borg. Mass psychology and psychological warfare based on the effects of “mass media” led to world wars and mass suffering. In an effort to find stability, an avalanche of increasingly “soulless” mass consumption and unrooted “globalist” ideology followed. But this is now coming to an end. Indeed, as a result of Digital technology, we no longer live in the “modern world.”
Session 6: Subsidiarity — Memory and Autonomy — Apr 3 — RSVP Here: : Digital technology thrusts us all into a dramatically new cultural paradigm. Whereas Electricity emphasized “imagination” (culminating in the destabilizing effects of “social media”), Digital shifts the emphasis towards “memory” — two of the faculties at the heart of our subconscious “Inner Senses.” As this happens — to us all — our sensibilities are re-shaped and the “conditioning” we have suffered is now being undermined. As a result, we are experiencing a recovery of “virtue” and a widespread re-evaluation of personal responsibilities. “Mass society” is being replaced by one with new social forms and based on increased human autonomy — aligning with the principles of subsidiarity.
Session 7: Solidarity — God’s Diplomats — Apr 10 — RSVP Here: : “Peace on Earth” has long been a key imperative for the Church. Particularly after the Italian seizure of the Papal States in 1870, the Catholic Church has become a “neutral” diplomatic participant with unique moral standing. In an era when imaginary “globalist” cohesion has collapsed, the universal concern for all of humanity has become closely linked to the Church’s quiet and persistent diplomatic engagement. Charity is understood by the Church as a theological virtue — along with Hope and Faith — and much charity will be required as the world goes through today’s fundamental change in paradigms.
Session 8: Solidarity — Three Spheres — Apr 17 — RSVP Here: The post-WW II “World Order” that we have lived under has collapsed. Onetime globalist ambitions have been shattered, as a result of Digital technology. This presents new challenges and substantially increases risks. Groups that evaluate “existential threats” have proliferated. Under Digital conditions, Catholic Social Teaching has become an even more crucial component of global affairs. Will we learn the lessons from the past and embrace the Church’s experience and charity towards all? We have entered into a dangerous historic period and the Church has a vital role to play. Digital Catholic Social Teaching has become a particularly important source of guidance and grace.
Mark Stahlman is President of the Center for the Study of Digital Life (CSDL). A retired Wall Street technology strategist, investment banker and serial entrepreneur, he launched his first software company – Computron Technologies, Inc. – in the early 1970s after leaving his study of Theology (University of Chicago) and Molecular Genetics (University of Wisconsin, Madison) to join the still nascent digital revolution. Stahlman started his digital career as a computer architect and programmer, designing computer and networking systems for Wang Labs, Citibank and the Diplomat Arabic word processor for Computron. He began his Wall Street career as a principal at Sanford Bernstein, and is credited with being the first to cover Sun Microsystems (SUNW) in 1986. He continued at Alex Brown and Sons, where he was a partner and he formed the New Media banking practice which managed the initial public offering for America Online (AOL) in 1992. Stahlman’s work in computer architecture led him to coin the term “network computing,” which Sun Microsystems adopted for their corporate motto “The Network is the Computer.”
In the 1990s, Stahlman co-founded the world’s largest Internet group, the New York New Media Association (NYNMA), and is credited with the term “Silicon Alley.” His Why IBM Failed article for Harvard Business Review led to an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal and a consulting assignment at IBM that pushed the company towards its leadership in the services business. More recently, Stahlman helped organize an East-West “Dialogue of Civilizations” conference at the United Nations, and guest-edited a Special Centennial issue of the literary journal Renascence, devoted to Marshall McLuhan. He is a prolific writer whose reports have generated over $50M for his firms and 10-20x investment returns for his clients. He was on the first Institutional Investor magazine All American Team for Microcomputers, has appeared often on CNBC, CNN and Bloomberg TV, was profiled by Forbes as “The Futurist,” has written for Wired and Information Week, and was a contributing editor at Strategy + Business. His godfather was Norbert Wiener, and he considers CSDL to be a continuation of his father’s participation in Wiener’s “Genius Project.”