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Friday, July 12, 2024 | Back issues
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G7 summit: Pope Francis warns against ‘dooming’ humanity with AI

Pope Francis became the first pontiff to attend a G7 meeting. He spoke to world leaders about the risks posed by artificial intelligence.

FASANO, Italy (CN) — In the first speech ever by a pontiff to the Group of Seven, Pope Francis on Friday warned against allowing artificial intelligence to overtake humanity and leave humans dependent on machines.

“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,” Francis 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,” he added.

He said AI held the possibility of helping humanity by expanding access to knowledge around the world and accelerating scientific discovery, but there are dangers inherent with the technology.

“Yet at the same time, it could bring with it a greater injustice between advanced and developing nations or between dominant and oppressed social classes,” he said.

He made his speech to world leaders on the second day of a G7 summit in Puglia, a southern region of Italy.

The 87-year-old pope was warmly greeted by G7 leaders and 10 other world leaders gathered to talk about AI, migration, Africa and other pressing global issues.

Francis has become an outspoken advocate for the need to regulate AI to ensure its powers do exceed human control.

In a wheelchair due to knee problems, Francis was rolled around a large oval table to meet the leaders.

He was warmly embraced by a fellow Argentine, President Javier Milei; held a whispered conversation with U.S. President Joe Biden, who is only the second Roman Catholic to hold the White House; received hugs from Jordan's King Abdullah and Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva; and kisses on each cheek from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Francis called on the world leaders to make sure AI does not become a tool against humanity and he urged them to support a ban on the use of autonomous weapons in war.

“In light of the tragedy that is armed conflict, it is urgent to reconsider the development and use of devices like the so-called ‘lethal autonomous weapons’ and ultimately ban their use,” he said.

“This starts from an effective and concrete commitment to introduce ever greater and proper human control,” he continued. “No machine should ever choose to take the life of a human being.”

He also warned about AI's capacities to generate fake news and make relationships between humans depend on algorithms.

Francis said politicians must be at the forefront of ensuring AI is constrained.

“It is up to everyone to make good use of (AI) but the onus is on politics to create the conditions for such good use to be possible and fruitful,” he said.

In a draft of their closing statement, the G7 leaders pledged to formulate plans to ensure humanity can take advantage of the pending AI revolution. The G7 already has agreed to an 11-point voluntary “code of conduct” for AI companies called the “Hiroshima AI Process.”

Francis is adding his voice to a growing number of countries, corporations and non-government organizations pushing for stronger guardrails on AI following the boom in generative artificial intelligence kickstarted by OpenAI’s ChatGPT chatbot.

The Argentine pope used his annual peace message this year to call for an international treaty to ensure AI is developed and used ethically. He argues that a technology lacking human values of compassion, mercy, morality and forgiveness is too perilous to develop unchecked.

Last December, the European Union moved to adopt a set of groundbreaking rules called the AI Act to regulate the quickly developing technology. Around the globe, governments are racing to both regulate and foster the development of AI, which many scientists fear could cause catastrophic damage to humanity.

Last November, numerous countries, including China, India and Saudi Arabia, signed an agreement to tackle oversight over AI. China and the U.S., the world's AI leaders, have introduced their own AI rules.

Courthouse News reporter Cain Burdeau is based in the European Union.

Follow @cainburdeau
Categories / Government, International, Politics, Technology

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