Pope at G7: Artificial Intelligence Must Remain on Human’s Service

Francis is the first pontiff to attend a summit of the “greats of the world” and spoke about the challenges posed by the “duality” of emerging technological systems

“A charming and terrible tool at the same time.” This way Pope Francis defined artificial intelligence during his speech at the G7.

Pontifex’s reflections begin with the observation that we are talking about an extremely powerful tool that is already being used today in many different applications and that will increasingly influence our lifestyles, our social relationships, and “in the future even how we realize our identity as human beings.”

An ambivalent theme that, on the one hand, is “enthusiastic about the possibilities it offers, on the other hand, generates fear of the consequences it suggests. (…) Moreover, we cannot doubt that the emergence of artificial intelligence represents a true cognitive-industrial revolution.” Thus, artificial intelligence could provide more democratic access to knowledge, unimaginable progress in scientific research. The possibility of a “culture of encounter” in favor of a “culture of disposability,” the Pope explained.

Ultimately, “artificial intelligence is first and foremost a tool. And it is natural to say that the benefit or harm it brings will depend on its use.”

Then a warning about its use in war: “In a drama such as the drama of armed conflict, there is an urgent need to rethink the development and use of devices such as so-called ‘lethal autonomous weapons’ to prohibit their use, starting with the active adoption of specific commitments to introduce even greater and significant human control. No machine should ever have to choose whether to take a human life.”

Regarding generative artificial intelligence, Francis remarked: “In truth, it looks for information in big data and packages it in the style required. It does not develop new concepts or analysis. It replicates the ones it finds, giving them an attractive shape. And the more an idea or hypothesis is repeated, the more legitimate and valid it is considered. Thus, it is more than “generative,” it is “reinforcing” in the sense that it reorders existing content to help consolidate it, often without checking whether it contains errors or biases. Therefore, we risk not only legitimizing fake news and reinforcing the dominant culture’s advantage, but also undermining the educational process that is in its infancy.”

There is a need for politics that knows how to put the human being and his dignity at the center: in this historical period, “there is a loss or at least an eclipse of the sense of the human and a seeming insignificance of the notion of human dignity. It seems to lose the value and deep meaning of one of the fundamental categories of the West: the category of the human person. Thus, in this era when artificial intelligence programs are questioning human beings and their actions, the very weakness of the ethos associated with the perception of the value and dignity of the human person risks becoming the greatest vulnerability in the implementation and development of these systems. In order for (artificial intelligence programs – ed.) to become tools for building goodness and a better future, they must always be directed for the benefit of everyone. They must have ethical inspiration.”