Pope Francis calls for a global AI treaty for ethical development.
Emphasizes human oversight in armaments and warns of job and privacy risks.
Urges against sole reliance on tech companies for regulation.
Pope Francis has called for an international treaty to ensure the ethical development and use of artificial intelligence (AI). The Pope expressed concerns about the potential risks associated with AI technology lacking human values such as compassion, mercy, morality, and forgiveness. The Vatican released the text of the message on Thursday, with Francis joining the growing chorus of voices advocating for binding, global regulations on AI.
The Pope’s call for AI regulation carries a personal touch, as earlier this year, an AI-generated image of him wearing a luxury white puffer jacket went viral, highlighting the rapid spread of realistic deepfake imagery online.
This message comes shortly after European Union negotiators secured provisional approval for the world’s first comprehensive AI rules, which are expected to set a gold standard for governments considering their own AI regulations.
While acknowledging the promise AI offers and praising technological advances as manifestations of human intelligence creativity, Pope Francis emphasized the grave concerns raised by ethicists and human rights advocates. He referred to AI as potentially the “highest-stakes gamble of our future” and insisted that its development and deployment must prioritize fundamental human rights, peace, and protection against disinformation, discrimination, and distortion.
The Pope’s greatest alarm was directed towards the use of AI in the armaments sector. He called for “adequate, meaningful, and consistent” human oversight of Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS) and warned against new technologies that may promote the “folly of war.”
On a broader level, Pope Francis expressed concerns about the profound repercussions of automated systems that categorize or rank citizens. He highlighted the potential threat to jobs globally and warned about the impact on individual rights, such as determining mortgage eligibility, asylum status for migrants, and the likelihood of reoffending by individuals with a criminal history.
The Pope did not delve into the details of a possible binding treaty but emphasized that it should be negotiated at a global level to promote best practices and prevent harmful ones. He argued that technology companies alone cannot be trusted to regulate themselves and repurposed arguments against the temptations of selfishness, self-interest, profit, and power.
Barbara Caputo, a professor at the Turin Polytechnic University’s Artificial Intelligence Hub, noted that there is already convergence on fundamental ethical issues in both the EU’s regulation and the executive order unveiled by U.S. President Joe Biden in October, indicating a common regulatory base for the development of artificial intelligence.
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