Pope Francis on AI

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz - The Philippine Star

Pope Francis participated in the Group of Seven session on artificial intelligence held in Borgio Egnazie, Italy on June 13-15 and on June 14, he delivered his message on artificial intelligence (AI). He is the first pontiff to address a G7 summit. 

One of the ideas that he has propagated is that politics is necessary. In his talk he said, “Only a healthy politics involving the most diverse sectors and skills is capable of overseeing this process.” The pope said that “an economy that is an integral part of a political, social, cultural and popular program directed to the common good could pave the way for different possibilities which do not involve stifling human creativity and its ideals of progress, but rather directing that energy along new channels.”

In the address to the leaders of the intergovernmental forum of the G7, the pope zeroed in on the effects of AI on the future of humanity. He said that “AI is an extremely powerful tool employed in many kinds of human activity: from medicine to the world of work; from culture to the field of communications; from education to politics.”

The pope has said that the use of AI will increasingly influence the way we live, our social relationships and even the way we conceive of our identity as human beings.

The advent of AI represents a true cognitive Industrial Revolution which will contribute to the creation of a new social system characterized by complex transformations. The pope said: “AI could enable a democratization of access to knowledge, the exponential advancement of scientific research and the possibility of giving demanding and arduous work to machines.”

It is precisely this powerful technological progress that makes AI at the same time an exciting and fearsome tool. The pope emphasized that we could start from the observation that AI is, above all else, a tool. He said: “The benefits or harm it will bring will depend on its use.”

The pope then made a profound statement: “This is surely the case, for it has been this way with every tool fashioned by human beings since the dawn of time.”

The pope also talked about technology and what it means to be human. The machine makes a technical choice among several possibilities based either on well-defined criteria or on statistical inferences. Human beings, however, do not only choose but are in their hearts capable of deciding. He continued, “Faced with the marvels of machines which seem to know how to choose independently, we should be very clear that decision making, even when we are confronted with its sometimes dramatic and urgent aspects, must always be left to the human person. We would condemn humanity to a future without hope if we took away people’s ability to make decisions about themselves and their lives by dooming them to depend on the choices of machines.”

According to Pope Francis, there must be proper human control over the choices made by AI programs.

“No machine should ever choose to take the life of a human being,” and super powerful algorithms should not be allowed to decide human destinies.

Towards the end of his talk, Pope Francis had a surprising message. “Politics is necessary. Political powers do not find it easy to assume this duty in the work of nation-building, much less in forging a common project for the human family now and in the future.” He ended by saying: “This is precisely the situation with AI. It is up to everyone to make good use of it, but the onus is on politics to create the conditions for such good use to be possible and fruitful.”

AI generates excitement for the many possibilities it offers. At the same time, it gives rise to fear for the consequences that could arise from its use. For most people, there is enthusiasm when we imagine the advances that can result from AI. We are also fearful regarding the dangers inherent in its use. AI offers possibilities but the pope warns of the consequences that it foreshadows. 

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Registration for Writefest 2024 is ongoing for the hybrid creative writing workshop for kids and teens which runs on June 24, 26, 28, July 1, 3, 5 (MWF, 3-5 pm) in Fully Booked BGC and via Zoom. The young writers will have a chance to interact with guest authors poet and novelist Joel Donato, Ching Jacob aka Cupkeyk, a Scholastic Asian Book Award winner and poet and novelist Dawn Lanuza. For more info: [email protected].

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Email: [email protected]

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