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Pope Warns Artificial Intelligence Could ‘Fuel Conflicts And Antagonism’



Pope Francis issued a warning against artificial intelligence Tuesday, saying in a statement it should be used in “service of humanity” and warning to be vigilant of the “rapidly increasing impact” the technology is having on society.

Key Facts

The Vatican released the statement to announce the theme of the next World Day of Peace of the Catholic Church—“artificial intelligence and peace”—which is on New Year's Day; last year’s theme was “combatting Covid-19 together.”

The Pope called for “an open dialogue on the meaning of these new technologies, endowed with disruptive possibilities and ambivalent effects” and said there is an “urgent need to orient” the use of AI in a responsible way so as to avoid “conflicts and antagonism.”

He said in the statement that AI must be used ethically in the specific fields of education and law, and that the development of the technology shouldn’t come “at the expense of the most fragile and excluded.”

Pope Francis, 86, has said in the past he doesn’t know how to use a computer, though he has been praised as one of the more technologically advanced popes as he’s hosted multiple events online and has an active X, formerly Twitter, account.

Surprising Fact

Earlier this year, Pope Francis was the subject of many AI-generated photos. The New York Times reported that AI-generated images of Pope Francis had more likes and comments than many other AI photos. A “deepfake” series of Pope Francis wearing a Balenciaga coat went viral, and other fake images of him eating fast food, playing guitar and scuba diving also started to circulate the internet.

Key Background

AI and its various developments and uses became a worldwide conversation seemingly overnight after the launch of ChatGPT last November. Since then, concerns about its uses and impacts—especially going into an election year—have permeated conversations as lawmakers in the U.S. and abroad discuss how to regulate the new technology. In March, Elon Musk and hundreds of other high-profile technologists, entrepreneurs and researchers called on AI labs to stop work on their systems and urged developers to step back from development while society better assess the risks advanced artificial intelligence poses to humanity. Even Geoffrey Hinton, nicknamed the godfather of AI, left his role at Google to spread word about how AI could soon outperform humans and the dangerous advancements ahead. Pope Francis—who has been called innovative in his role leading the Catholic Church—has spoken about AI and technology in the past with similar messages. Five months ago, he said he was “convinced” the development of the technology and machine learning “has the potential to contribute in a positive way to the future of humanity,” though he cautioned that for positive developments to happen the people creating it need to “act ethically and responsibly.” In February, he warned against technology more broadly, saying it cannot “replace human contact.”

Further Background

ReutersPope warns against potential dangers of artificial intelligenceForbesWhy Did 'Balenciaga Pope' Go Viral?NytimesWhy Pope Francis Is the Star of A.I.-Generated Photos
VaticannewsPope Francis urges ethical use of artificial intelligence - Vatican NewsForbesElon Musk And Tech Leaders Call For AI 'Pause' Over Risks To Humanity
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