Pope Francis to Address Ethical AI at G7 Summit
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By The Smartencyclopedia Staff Writer with Agencies 

In an unprecedented move, Pope Francis is set to address G7 leaders on the topic of artificial intelligence (AI) this Friday. This significant event highlights the Vatican’s increasing focus on the implications of new technology, both its potential benefits and its risks.

The 87-year-old pontiff will make history as the first head of the Catholic Church to speak at a G7 summit. His address on the second day of the Puglia meeting will be attended by prominent leaders including US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron.

While the leader of a 2,000-year-old institution may seem an unlikely candidate to discuss cutting-edge technology, Pope Francis views AI as a crucial issue for humanity. “The Church always looks to humans as the center of its mission,” said Paolo Benanti, a Franciscan university professor and member of the UN’s AI advisory body who advises the pope directly. He emphasized that the Church’s interest in AI is focused on its impact on human life rather than the technology itself.

Earlier this year, Pope Francis dedicated the theme of the Church’s World Day of Peace to AI, publishing a six-page document on January 1. In it, he praised scientific and technological advances that have alleviated human suffering and suggested that AI could further enhance fields like medical research and social well-being. However, he also warned of potential dangers such as disinformation, election interference, and the exacerbation of social and economic inequalities.

Pope Francis, who has been the subject of various AI-generated images himself, including a viral image showing him in a large white puffer coat, has called for a binding international treaty to regulate AI development and use. The goal is to prevent harm and share best practices globally.

The launch of OpenAI’s ChatGPT chatbot, which can perform tasks ranging from summarizing complex texts to writing poetry and computer code, has spurred governments worldwide to address the rapid expansion of AI. The European Union, which participates in G7 summits as an unofficial member, approved the world’s first comprehensive AI regulations earlier this year. Additionally, G7 leaders in Japan last year established a working group to promote the responsible use of AI, addressing issues such as copyright and disinformation.

Italy, hosting this year’s summit, has prioritized AI, focusing on its potential impact on employment and advocating for a “human-centered approach.” Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni noted in April that the pope’s presence would significantly contribute to shaping a regulatory, ethical, and cultural framework for AI.

The Vatican has engaged with various experts to deepen its understanding of AI, including Demis Hassabis, head of Google DeepMind, who was appointed to the Vatican’s scientific academy in March. In 2020, the Vatican initiated the Call for AI Ethics, supported by tech giants Microsoft and IBM, as well as Cisco, numerous universities, and the UN, to promote ethical AI practices.

Eric Salobir, head of the executive committee of the Human Technology Foundation, suggests that Pope Francis’s address will likely emphasize the need to protect the most vulnerable populations. It will be a call for G7 leaders to carefully consider the risks and develop regulations without causing undue alarm.

Pope Francis, who has consistently advocated for the poorest and most marginalized since assuming office in 2013, has cautioned that while AI offers new freedoms, it also poses the risk of a “technological dictatorship.” He warned of the dangers of using AI to make critical decisions, such as determining social security payments or directing autonomous weapons, where accountability may become unclear.

Paolo Benanti observed that Pope Francis has a unique ability to identify humanity’s most pressing challenges. Eric Salobir added that the pope’s influence as a neutral observer without vested interests in the digital economy enhances his credibility. When the Vatican discusses AI, it does so with a focus on the technology’s potential to benefit humanity, making it a unique voice in global discussions on AI ethics and regulation.

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