Guest Professor Yong Sup Song Presents Lecture on Hwarangdo and Moral AI

By Emmanouel Sofillas, Staff Writer

Yong Sup Song, Ph.D. traveled all the way from South Korea. @MANHATTAN.EDU/COURTESY

Yong Sup Song, Ph.D., traveled all the way from Youngnam Theological University in South Korea to give an eye-opening lecture on the development of moral artificial intelligence at Manhattan College.

Song’s focus was not on the existential crisis of robots replacing humans. Rather, it focused on having a symbiotic relationship and coexisting with artificial intelligence, particularly using a unique ancient Korean military code called “Hwarangdo.”

Song highlighted the importance of Hwarangdo as a means to give artificial intelligence its moral backbone.

“Artificial intelligence at the level of children should learn and nurture specific virtues that we are intended to have,” Song said. “The idea and stories of Hwarangdo should contribute to the development of prosocial moral artificial intelligence by providing virtues and various Korean cultural and religious traditions, regional values, and virtues found in Hwarangdo.”

Robert Geraci, Ph.D., professor of religious studies at Manhattan College and colleague of Song, offered his outlook on the lecture while connecting it with his knowledge of artificial intelligence.

“We’ve been writing papers on how to integrate global values into the development of technology, and our particular focus is on the development of ethical artificial intelligence,” Geraci said. “His approach is theological, from a Christian perspective, while mine is secular, drawing on the tools and methods of religious studies. Together, we believe that we can leverage a global perspective to help shape the design ethos of artificial intelligence.”

Additionally, Geraci shared his optimistic view of the lecture’s impact on students at the college.

“He notes the importance of such practices in developing a keen appreciation for life among ancient warriors,” Geraci said. “It is my hope that these discussions will lead students to understand and appreciate the need for broad cultural learning and the shaping of our future in a shared vision of human, and maybe even robot, flourishing.”

Carmen Bendezu, a psychology student at Manhattan College, was particularly affected by the lecture’s discussion of moral artificial intelligence, which can inadvertently perpetuate discrimination and inequality. 

“It was an eye-opener to see how artificial intelligence systems can potentially replace humans if they are not regulated with the correct moral code,” Bendezu said. “It’s incredible how one lecture can have such a transformative impact.”

Song ended his lecture by offering the audience an interesting perspective on an ideal society, showing a video of robots playfully dancing in the background and making his final remarks on the lecture.

“I dream of robots and humans dancing together one day in the future, singing and dancing collectively with humans in mountains and rivers,” Song said. “Wouldn’t such robots be closer to a prosocial moral AI than AI in the labs? Wouldn’t it be cool and amazing, exciting and surprising for us to imagine such Hwarangdo artificial intelligence robots that play together with us?”