Pope Francis warns G7 members of AI risks

Pope Francis has become the first pontiff to address a G7 summit, warning about the dangers of artificial intelligence (AI). 

Francis was invited by host Italy to address a special session at the Group of Seven’s annual summit on the perils and promises of AI, saying politicians must ensure the technology remains human-centric. 

“We would condemn humanity to a future without hope if we took away people’s ability to make decisions about themselves and their lives by dooming them to depend on the choices of machines,” he said. 

“We need to ensure and safeguard a space for proper human control over the choices made by artificial intelligence programs. Human dignity itself depends on it.”

The pope was embroiled in AI controversy in March last year, when an AI-generated photo of the 86-year-old wearing a white puffer jacket went viral. 

Pope Francis said “human dignity itself” depended on proper AI safeguards. (AP: Alex Brandon)

The G7 final statement largely reflected his concerns.

The leaders vowed to better coordinate the governance and regulatory frameworks surrounding AI to keep it “human-centered”. 

At the same time, they acknowledged the potential impacts on the labour markets of machines taking the place of human workers and on the justice system of algorithms predicting recidivism.

“We will pursue an inclusive, human-centered, digital transformation that underpins economic growth and sustainable development, maximises benefits, and manages risks, in line with our shared democratic values and respect for human rights,” they said.

The pope also urged the summit to ultimately ban the use of lethal autonomous weapons, colloquially known as “killer robots”.

“No machine should ever choose to take the life of a human being,” he said. 

Pope tells comedians it’s OK to ‘laugh at God’

Before flying to address world leaders, Pope Francis also hosted a very different audience at the Vatican on Friday, local time, to celebrate the importance of humour.

The pontiff welcomed more than 100 comedians from 15 nations, including US celebrities Whoopi Goldberg, Jimmy Fallon, Chris Rock, Stephen Colbert and Conan O’Brien.

Whoopi Goldberg (centre) leaves after an audience with Pope Francis at The Vatican.(AP: Riccardo De Luca)

“In the midst of so much gloomy news, immersed as we are in many social and even personal emergencies, you have the power to spread peace and smiles,” Pope Francis told the comedians.

“Remember this,” he added. “When you manage to bring intelligent smiles to the lips of even a single spectator, you also make God smile.”

The pope also said it was OK to “laugh at God” in the same way “we play and joke with the people we love”.

After delivering his speech, the pope greeted all the comedians individually.

Chris Rock and Conan O’Brien (right) were shocked by the invitation to the meet Pope Francis.(AP: Riccardo De Luca )

O’Brien noted that the pope “spoke in Italian, so I’m not quite sure what was said”.

He jokingly compared lining up to shake the pope’s hand to children waiting to meet Santa Claus.

“I wanted to sit on his lap [and say]: ‘I want a sleigh for Christmas,’ you know? ‘I want a basketball!”


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