Pope Francis Warns of the Dangers of AI and Calls for ‘Ethical Reflection’

Pope Francis has formally spoken out on the topic of artificial intelligence (AI), stating that the speed at which the technology is growing is having an increasing impact on humanity and thus requires “ethical reflection” to assure responsibility.

In the statement, issued by the Vatican’s press office, the Pope warns that AI could pose a risk to society if its use is not given proper oversight.

“The remarkable advances made in the field of artificial intelligence are having a rapidly increasing impact on human activity, personal and social life, politics, and the economy,” Pope Francis writes.

He then called for an “open dialogue” on what these new technologies will mean for the near future with a specific emphasis on their “disruptive possibilities” and “ambivalent effects.” He adds that there is a need to be vigilant so that violence and discrimination do not become embedded in AI, therefore excluding certain at-risk groups in society and furthering the injustice and inequality they already face.

“The urgent need to orient the concept and use of artificial intelligence in a responsible way, so that it may be at the service of humanity and the protection of our common home, requires that ethical reflection be extended to the sphere of education and law,” he adds.

“The protection of the dignity of the person, and concern for a fraternity effectively open to the entire human family, are indispensable conditions for technological development to help contribute to the promotion of justice and peace in the world.”

The growth of AI, especially in imagery, has been explosive in the last six months. The technology has been used to create social media influencers who don’t really exist, recreate photos that no one had the opportunity to actually capture, and given way to whole AI-based headshot businesses that fully replace professional photographers.

If AI could be used to replace some aspect of reality, it’s safe to say that multiple people and businesses have already tried it. While these groups are experiencing varying degrees of success, right now the AI industry is in the “throw it at the wall and see what sticks” phase, which is likely the situation the Pope is warning could prove dangerous.

It is not clear if the Pope’s choice to speak out on AI has anything to do with the images of him in a puffy jacket, generated with Midjourney, that went viral earlier this year.

Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.

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Jaron Schneider