Pope Francis has issued a statement on Tuesday, August 8, 2023, warning about the dangers and challenges of artificial intelligence (AI) and calling for an open dialogue on the meaning and impact of these new technologies. The statement was released to announce the theme of the next World Day of Peace of the Catholic Church, which will be “artificial intelligence and peace” on January 1, 2024.
AI should be used in service of humanity
The Pope said that AI should be used in “service of humanity” and that it should respect the dignity and rights of every person. He also stressed the need to ensure that AI does not create or worsen “injustice and inequalities” that could fuel “conflicts and antagonism”. He said that AI should be oriented in a responsible way, so that it may contribute to the promotion of justice and peace in the world.
The Pope also highlighted the importance of education and law in the development and use of AI. He said that education should foster a critical and ethical approach to AI, while law should regulate its applications and protect the common good. He said that both fields should aim at “the protection of the dignity of the person and concern for a fraternity effectively open to the entire human family”.
AI poses disruptive possibilities and ambivalent effects
The Pope acknowledged that AI has brought many benefits to society, such as improving health care, education, communication, and productivity. However, he also warned that AI poses “disruptive possibilities and ambivalent effects” that could have a “rapidly increasing impact” on society. He said that AI could pose a risk to human freedom, dignity, and rights, as well as to the environment and social cohesion.
He also mentioned some specific challenges that AI could pose, such as algorithmic bias, manipulation, surveillance, cyberattacks, misinformation, and weaponization. He said that these challenges require “vigilance” and “prudence” from all stakeholders, including governments, civil society, researchers, developers, and users. He said that these challenges also require “an open dialogue” among different disciplines, cultures, religions, and perspectives.
Pope Francis has been a vocal advocate for ethical technology
This is not the first time that Pope Francis has spoken about technology and its ethical implications. In his 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’, he addressed the environmental and social impact of technology and called for an “integral ecology” that respects both nature and human dignity. In his 2020 message for World Communications Day, he urged communicators to use digital media in a way that fosters dialogue, encounter, and solidarity. In his 2021 book Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future, he reflected on the lessons learned from the Covid-19 pandemic and proposed a vision for a more inclusive and sustainable society.
Pope Francis has also been involved in several initiatives that promote ethical technology. In 2019, he hosted a Vatican conference on robotics and AI, where he met with experts from different fields and signed a document called the Rome Call for AI Ethics. In 2020, he endorsed the Common Good Principles for Artificial Intelligence developed by IBM and Microsoft. In 2021, he launched the Laudato Si’ Action Platform, a global movement that aims to implement the goals of his encyclical on integral ecology.