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MANILA, Philippines – For once, it did not take centuries.
In a church known for its sluggish pace in learning new technology, Pope Francis made a monumental move when he spoke of “artificial intelligence (AI) and peace” in his message for the 57th World Day of Peace, which coincides with the New Year.
It was the Pope’s most substantive discussion of generative AI, which has disrupted industries and caught governments flat-footed since ChatGPT was launched on November 30, 2022.
The message came after other AI-related discussions in the Catholic Church, such as the Declaration on Human Fraternity signed by 30 Nobel Peace Prize laureates, including Rappler chief executive officer Maria Ressa, in June 2023. The Vatican’s May 2023 document on engaging social media, a set of guidelines that came a decade after such technology was developed, also briefly tackled AI.
In his message for New Year 2024, the 87-year-old pontiff said scientific and technological progress can improve humanity and transform the world, but can also “pose a risk to our survival and endanger our common home.”
Here are the best quotes from Pope Francis’ message for the 57th World Day of Peace on Monday, January 1:
1. AI for humans, not humans for AI
“Technological developments that do not lead to an improvement in the quality of life of all humanity, but on the contrary aggravate inequalities and conflicts, can never count as true progress…. Artificial intelligence ought to serve our best human potential and our highest aspirations, not compete with them.”
2. ‘Realities are greater than ideas’
“Our world is too vast, varied, and complex ever to be fully known and categorized. The human mind can never exhaust its richness, even with the aid of the most advanced algorithms. Such algorithms do not offer guaranteed predictions of the future, but only statistical approximations. Not everything can be predicted, not everything can be calculated; in the end, ‘realities are greater than ideas.'”
3. No to ‘technological dictatorship’
“Human beings are, by definition, mortal; by proposing to overcome every limit through technology, in an obsessive desire to control everything, we risk losing control over ourselves; in the quest for an absolute freedom, we risk falling into the spiral of a ‘technological dictatorship.’ Recognizing and accepting our limits as creatures is an indispensable condition for reaching, or better, welcoming fulfillment as a gift. In the ideological context of a technocratic paradigm inspired by a Promethean presumption of self-sufficiency, inequalities could grow out of proportion, knowledge and wealth accumulate in the hands of a few, and grave risks ensue for democratic societies and peaceful coexistence.”
4. ‘Algorithms should not determine human rights’
“In the future, the reliability of an applicant for a mortgage, the suitability of an individual for a job, the possibility of recidivism on the part of a convicted person, or the right to receive political asylum or social assistance could be determined by artificial intelligence systems…. These artificial processes of categorization could lead also to power conflicts, since they concern not only virtual users but real people. Fundamental respect for human dignity demands that we refuse to allow the uniqueness of the person to be identified with a set of data. Algorithms must not be allowed to determine how we understand human rights, to set aside the essential human values of compassion, mercy, and forgiveness, or to eliminate the possibility of an individual changing and leaving his or her past behind.”
5. On autonomous weapon systems
“The ability to conduct military operations through remote control systems has led to a lessened perception of the devastation caused by those weapon systems and the burden of responsibility for their use, resulting in an even more cold and detached approach to the immense tragedy of war. Research on emerging technologies in the area of so-called Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems, including the weaponization of artificial intelligence, is a cause for grave ethical concern. Autonomous weapon systems can never be morally responsible subjects. The unique human capacity for moral judgment and ethical decision-making is more than a complex collection of algorithms, and that capacity cannot be reduced to programming a machine, which as ‘intelligent’ as it may be, remains a machine. For this reason, it is imperative to ensure adequate, meaningful, and consistent human oversight of weapon systems.”
6. For ‘the least of our brothers and sisters’
“On a more positive note, if artificial intelligence were used to promote integral human development, it could introduce important innovations in agriculture, education, and culture, an improved level of life for entire nations and peoples, and the growth of human fraternity and social friendship. In the end, the way we use it to include the least of our brothers and sisters, the vulnerable and those most in need, will be the true measure of our humanity.”
7. A call for a global AI treaty
“The global scale of artificial intelligence makes it clear that, alongside the responsibility of sovereign states to regulate its use internally, international organizations can play a decisive role in reaching multilateral agreements and coordinating their application and enforcement. In this regard, I urge the global community of nations to work together in order to adopt a binding international treaty that regulates the development and use of artificial intelligence in its many forms. The goal of regulation, naturally, should not only be the prevention of harmful practices but also the encouragement of best practices, by stimulating new and creative approaches and encouraging individual or group initiatives.”
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Happy New Year! – Rappler.com