At a recent conference in Vatican City, Pope Francis spoke to a crowd of executives from Silicon Valley companies such as Facebook, Google, and Mozilla, as well as theologians, government regulators, venture capitalists, and even Nobel Prize laureates, urging those with the capacity to dictate the future of artificial intelligence (AI) to do so with relentless ethical considerations in mind. The pope didn’t hold back either, explicitly noting that AI may be leading to “increasingly evident inequalities” as well as “a new form of barbarism.”
Great crowd of theologians, ethicists and tech experts who have gathered for the Vatican’s three-day conference on “The Common Good in the Digital Age,” held in the Aula of the Jesuit Curia in Rome. Introductions this morning from Cardinals Ravasi and Turkson. #digitalage19 pic.twitter.com/769WFwYwtF
— James Martin, SJ (@JamesMartinSJ) September 26, 2019
“The remarkable developments in the field of technology, in particular those dealing with artificial intelligence, raise increasingly significant implications in all areas of human activity,” the pope told the audience attending “The Common Good in the Digital Age” conference, adding that “For this reason, open and concrete discussions on this theme are needed now more than ever.”
In a Reuters report covering the three-day conference, which comes via Futurism, it’s noted that the pope highlighted the challenges AI poses to the general wellbeing of humanity. “If mankind’s so-called technological progress were to become an enemy of the common good… [it may lead to] both theoretical and practical moral principles,” the pope said.
For anybody following the Vatican’s general take on AI and the rapid acceleration of technology, the pope’s comments come as no surprise. In Laudato si‘, Pope Francis’ second encyclical (an encyclical is a letter circulated amongst Catholic churches by the pope), the Church specifically warns of the immense dangers of the most advanced facets of technology. “Those who hold this increasing and overwhelming power over humanity and nature are not necessarily ‘trained to use power well,’ the encyclical states, adding that “immense technological development has not been accompanied by a development in human responsibility [and] values.”
Pope Francis’ address to us in the Common Good in the Digital Age conference has this call to action: “Your work will continue until no one remains the victim of a system, however advanced and efficient, that fails to value the intrinsic dignity and contribution of each person.” pic.twitter.com/HsqAHvs1l8
— Shannon Vallor (@ShannonVallor) September 27, 2019
Perhaps the most relevant criticisms the pope and the Vatican have for AI is its tendency to promote “the individual and his/her freedom disconnected from the social and natural relations…” and “circulate tendentious opinions and false data that could poison public debates and even manipulate the opinions of millions of people, to the point of endangering the very institutions that guarantee peaceful civil coexistence.”
What do you think of the pope’s attitude toward artificial intelligence and technology in general? Do you think we should consider the rise of AI as a threat to humanity’s soul or is the pope overhyping the dangers it poses? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!
Feature image: Long Thiên