Fr. Collins C. Obidiagha, SJ, delivered a discussion on the benefits and dangers of artificial intelligence (AI) involvement in global affairs on Sept. 27. The GSAS ’24 cybersecurity major’s Thursday afternoon talk, “International Political Economy and Development (IPED) in the Era of Cybersecurity and AI,” illustrated how the intersectionality of his studies combine Obidiagha’s passions for technology and his Catholic faith, through his guest lecture for Fordham’s IPED program.
“As a Jesuit, I’m called to the mission of human flourishing, justice and safety — dedicated to defending every human being from the constantly-shifting threat landscape,” said Obidiagha. “Tech is deeply interwoven into our lives’ every facet, indispensably influential in socioeconomic, political or religious dimensions, transforming our world into a global village. The IT domain confronts increasingly sophisticated threats: cyberattacks that disrupt our critical infrastructure, compromise sensitive data and erode trust in digital systems. Cybersecurity is entrusted with the confidentiality, integrity, availability and safety of info-tech users, networks and infrastructure.”
Obidiagha’s seminar sought the balance of cybersecurity/AI in worldly economics, and the effects of both applications on each other. Throughout his talk, Obidiagha highlighted AI’s fight for and against cybersecurity measures. The graduate student expounded the rising roles of cybersecurity/AI fueled by growing needs for competitiveness and efficiency, pointing to cybersecurity’s need to successfully stabilize the planet’s rapidly-modernizing global economies. Obidiagha highlighted these technological implications on IPED cooperation, namely how companies and countries engage on the global stage through economic policies, trade agreements and international development initiatives.
“The geopolitics of cybersecurity and AI are significant factors in international relations, leading to shifting alliances and rivalries,” Obidiagha said. He illustrated AI’s advantages, including its potential for economic growth, development of solutions inconceivable by humankind and their self-defense, but listed challenges of job displacement, algorithmic biases and privacy violations. “Cybersecurity measures can enable more proactive and adaptive defense strategies,” Obidiagha said.
He detailed how AI is weaponized to supercharge cyberattacks, obversely noting the juxtaposition of machine-learning that robustly enhances digital protections against dangerous malware. “The era of cybersecurity/AI is marked by both promise and peril,” he concluded. “How corporations, nations and international bodies navigate the intricate interaction of these tech forces will define the trajectory of IPED in the 21st century — a pivotal moment requiring careful consideration of human rights and social justice.”
Like his emphasis on technology’s prevalence in people’s lives, Obidiagha wove his personal experiences into his discussion. An eastern Nigerian expatriate of Awo-Omamma, Imo State, Obidiagha was born and raised in the town of Bariga. His journey into faith began when he joined the altar servers in his church, St. Denis. “My faith and understanding of the Church respectively strengthened and deepened,” Obidiagha recalled. Technology met faith when he joined the Development Research and Action Network skill acquisition center. Excellence in the program propelled him to graduate second in his class cohort, and landed him his first job as a peer educator, during which he realized his programming aptitude. Obidiagha earned a Diploma Certificate in computer engineering at the community-based Breakthrough Computer College; a B.A. in philosophy from the University of Zimbabwe Arrupe College Jesuit School of Philosophy and Humanities; and a B.A. in theology from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa Hekima University College. At Fordham, he’s pursuing his M.S. in cybersecurity and Advanced Certificate in data science for cybersecurity.
“Being in tech in Nigeria since 2004, I witnessed with great admiration the era of technological boom, how various sectors of our economy welcomed this with open arms, how the youth interfaced and embraced tech because they saw the enormous impact it would have on their future,” Obidiagha said. “I also noticed that the same technological advancement that gives us life could ruin it if we don’t properly utilize it. My journey as a Jesuit priest in info-tech has heightened my awareness of the need to harness AI while ensuring its benefits are equitably distributed, so our global economy remains stable and just.” Obidiagha outlined his diverse studies and fascination with tech as an interconnected catalyst for progressively positive change. “Tech is a remarkably dynamic force able to drive innovation, foster inclusivity, promote sustainable development and continually evolve with humanity’s evolving needs,” he added. Obidiagha credits his rigorous philosophical training for priesthood with honing his critical thinking, enabling him to comprehensively engage with various fields. “My theological studies instill in me the belief that tech’s advancements are God’s blessings to humanity,” declared Obidiagha. “This perspective integrates my search for applications promoting life and human development, reinforcing my commitment to harvest it for the greater good and value principles inherent in my faith.”
“What particularly motivated my discussion were the issues outlined in it,” Obidiagha explained. “I’ve realized the potential agathokakological powers of cybersecurity/AI: their capacity to revolutionize entire industries, spur economic growth and improve quality of life, yet simultaneously underscore vulnerabilities inherent in our escalating dependence on digital systems.” He aspires for his talk to stimulate further dialogues on technology in IPED. “I aim to inspire IPED students and faculty to probingly question the interplay between these areas of study. I’m optimistic these discussions will catalyze actions harnessing the benefits of these technologies while addressing associated challenges.”
“Fr. Collins was selected to participate in the weekly lecture series as he is a Master’s candidate in Cybersecurity,” specified IPED lecture coordinator Mmafatse Ndlebe, GSAS ’24. “Cybersecurity plays a crucial role in the advancement of IPED by ensuring the integrity of international trade and financial systems.” Ndlebe, who’s pursuing an M.A. in IPED, noted the importance for students to better understand the impacts of cybersecurity/AI on international relations and economic competition. “Such talks empower students with knowledge and critical thinking skills to navigate complexities at intersections of tech, politics, and economics, ensuring they can shape a resiliently prosperous IPED,” Ndlebe said.
“An education in philosophy, theology and computers has prepared me for ordination, but empowered me to bridge the worlds of tech and faith as complementary facets of human existence,” he continued. He identified his priesthood and cybersecurity careers as uniquely synthesizing in him a deep sense of purpose. “I’ve the unwavering belief that both realms contribute positively to our world’s well-being.”