What the Pope says about artificial intelligence

What the Pope says about artificial intelligence

The one who was represented last March in a state-of-the-art white down jacket by the Midjourney software presented recommendations on Friday September 29 regarding the use of artificial intelligence. “It is important to guide artificial intelligence and algorithms, so that there is responsible awareness of everyone in the use and development of these different forms of communication,” the Holy Father said in the Vatican press release on the 2024 edition of World Communications Day. The theme will therefore be: “Artificial intelligence and wisdom of the heart: for fully human communication.”

Created following the Second Vatican Council, this annual event aims to lead collective reflection on communication tools. Today mainly digital, it is a question of thinking about uses that respect the teachings of the Church.

A human use of artificial intelligence

The Pope insists very clearly that this new means of communication must not be used to the detriment of the dignity of human life, but rather to contribute to its flourishing. Adding that: “Like all revolutions, that based on artificial intelligence also poses new challenges so that machines do not contribute to the dissemination of a system of disinformation on a large scale and do not increase the loneliness of those who are already isolated, depriving them of the warmth that only communication between people can give.”

Implement an “algor-ethics”

This interest of the Holy Father in digital technology is not new. In 2019, during his speech at the Child Dignity in the Digital World congress, the Pope introduced the term “algor-ethics” into the debate. François then insinuates that an ethics of the algorithm must be put in place to study the way in which the relationships between human beings and machines are integrated. And he explains: “There are many skills involved in the process of developing technological devices (research, design, production, distribution, personal and collective use), and each carries a specific responsibility. We glimpse a new frontier that we could call “algor-ethics”. This aims to ensure competent and shared verification of the processes by which the relationships between human beings and the machines of our time are integrated.”

The need for Christians to interpret it

According to the Pope, it is essential that believers can educate themselves about artificial intelligence. For this, they can refer to the Social Doctrine of the Church. On the occasion of his meeting with the participants of the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Francis recalled: “The principles of the Social Doctrine of the Church offer a decisive contribution: dignity of the person, justice, subsidiarity and solidarity. These express the commitment to serve each person in their entirety and all people, without discrimination or exclusion.”

A great help to humanity

If artificial intelligence is particularly worrying in 2023, particularly with the rise of ChatGPT which makes it accessible to all, the Pope nevertheless recognizes some benefits. In his message to the participants of the Minerva Dialogues in Rome in March 2023, he highlights the progress made in the field of medicine or science. Affirming that it is possible to see in it “the proof of the creativity of the human being and the nobility of his vocation to participate responsibly in the creative action of God”. Francis states: “The development of artificial intelligence and machine learning has the potential to make a beneficial contribution to the future of humanity. However, I am convinced that this potential will only be realized if those who develop the technologies demonstrate a consistent desire to act ethically and responsibly.”

Beware of the pride of “wanting to touch the heavens”

Used wisely, artificial intelligence holds promise for the future of humanity. However, the pope warns of the excesses it can cause. Also during his speech at the Dialogues of Minerva, the pope alludes to the biblical story of the Tower of Babel to illustrate the consequences that man’s excessive ambitions can have. Here is what he says: “Scripture warns us against the pride of wanting to “touch heaven” (v. 4), that is to say, grasping and seizing the horizon of values ​​which identifies and guarantees our human dignity. And always, in this case we face a serious injustice in society. In the myth of the Tower of Babel, making a brick is difficult: mud, straw, mix, then bake… When a brick fell it represented a great loss; many complained: “We lost a brick.” If a worker fell, no one said anything. This should make us think: what is more important? The brick or the man or woman who works? It’s a distinction that should make us think.”

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