Pope Francis has voiced concerns over the dangers of artificial intelligence, arguing that it must be regulated and used ethically. He asserted, with it comes the enormous potential for good, but in his World Peace message titled “Artificial Intelligence and Peace”, Francis also emphasised on its threats to human rights.
After an AI-generated image of him wearing a white puffer jacket circulated online earlier this year, Francis has been more vocal about global issues surrounding AI. He worries that advanced technology can lead to the proliferation of “fake news” and bias.
Francis also expressed his fears of the use of AI in the armaments sector, at a time when AI is being utilised in the ongoing war in Gaza and other armed conflicts. Remote weapon systems, he says, lead to a “distancing from the immense tragedy of war and a lessened perception of the devastation caused by those weapons systems and the burden of responsibility for their use.”
“The unique capacity for moral judgment and ethical decision-making is more than a complex collection of algorithms, and that capacity cannot be reduced to programming a machine,” he added.
Furthermore, he feels disturbed by the possibility of the involvement of AI in moral decision-making, such as whether a migrant should receive political asylum or can an individual apply for a mortgage. “Algorithms must not be allowed to determine how we understand human rights, to set aside the essential human values of compassion, mercy and forgiveness, or to eliminate the possibility of an individual changing and leaving his or her past behind,” he wrote.
Since the availability of AI platforms like Open AI’s Chat GPT, there has been widespread concern over the role of AI in the near future – not just with regards to jobs, but also privacy and copyright protection. This has led to an EU agreement on the world’s first rules on AI regulation. The formation of a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the US to discuss potential AI regulations is a sign that other parts of the world may follow suit.
A binding treaty should be negotiated at a global level, said Francis, or else we risk the emergence of a “technical dictatorship”. In his message, he mentioned the potential of discrimination, interference in elections, the rise of a surveillance society, digital exclusion and the exacerbation of an individualism increasingly disconnected from society.
Cardinal Michael Czerny, head of the Vatican's human development office defended the Pope’s message, saying he is “no luddite”, he just believes that new technologies ought to be directed to “the pursuit of peace and the common good, in the service of the integral development of individuals and communities.”
Photo credit: Antonio Masiello
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