Pope Francis Becomes First Pontiff To Address G7

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Pope Francis warned that such potent technology runs the risk of reducing human connections themselves to mere algorithms, and he challenged the leaders of the world’s wealthy democracies on Friday to prioritize human dignity in the development and application of artificial intelligence.

Invited by host Italy to speak at a special session of their annual summit on the dangers and potential of artificial intelligence, Francis applied his moral authority to the Group of Seven. By doing this, he made history as the first pope to visit the G7 and provide a moral perspective on a topic that is becoming more and more important to international summits, national policies, and corporate boards.

Francis emphasized that in order to ensure that AI stays human-centric and that humans, not robots, are always in charge of deciding when to deploy weapons or even less harmful instruments, politicians must take the initiative.

“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.”

Francis is joining the chorus of nations and international organizations calling for stricter regulations on artificial intelligence in the wake of the ChatGPT chatbot from OpenAI that ignited a worldwide AI boom.

This year, the Argentine pontiff called for an international convention to guarantee AI is researched and applied ethically during his yearly peace address. He contends that it would be too dangerous for technology to advance unfettered if it were to lack human virtues like forgiveness, morality, compassion, and mercy.

While he did not specifically reiterate that request in his speech on Friday, he did make it plain that lawmakers must take the lead on this issue. Furthermore, he urged them to outlaw the employment of deadly autonomous weaponry, also referred to as “killer robots.”

He declared, “No machine should ever choose to take a human being’s life.”

“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, addressing the leaders gathered around the table.

Knowing that Francis’s star power and moral authority could have an impact on the G7, Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni announced Francis’s presence and extended an invitation to him. When Francis came, the lively chatter in the room completely stopped, and those sat at the table appeared appropriately impressed.

“The pope is, well, a very special kind of a celebrity,” said John Kirton, a political scientist at the University of Toronto who directs the G7 Research Group think tank.

Kirton recalled the 2005 summit at Gleneagles, Scotland, as the last one to have this kind of star power that resulted in action. There, world leaders made the decision to erase the $40 billion in debt that 18 of the world’s poorest nations owed the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Prior to that meeting, almost a million people attended the Live 8 event in London, which was organized in solidarity against famine and poverty in Africa and featured Sting, The Who, and a reformed Pink Floyd.

“Gleneagles actually hit a home run and for some it’s one of the most successful summits,” Kirton said.

In the Italian area of Puglia, no such public pressure is being applied to the G7 leaders, but Francis recognized he could use his own moral power to reiterate his calls for AI safety measures and draw attention to the dangers AI poses to society and peace if human ethics are neglected.

“To speak of technology is to speak of what it means to be human and thus of our singular status as beings who possess both freedom and responsibility,” he said. “This means speaking about ethics.”

The world has been astonished by generative AI technology’s ability to generate responses that resemble those of a person, but it has also raised concerns about AI safety and prompted a disorganized array of international attempts to control it.

Some fear that humanity faces distant and catastrophic hazards due to the possibility of developing new bioweapons and spreading misinformation. Some worry about how it will impact daily life, such as algorithmic bias leading to discrimination or AI systems taking employment away.

Francis brought up several issues in addition to these in his peace address. According to him, AI must prioritize preserving fundamental human rights, fostering peace, and protecting against false information, prejudice, and distortion.

Francis will essentially be speaking to the choir when it comes to regulations, since the G7 countries have led the charge in the discussion of AI control.

Japan initiated the Hiroshima AI initiative last year to create global guidelines and a code of conduct for AI developers. Japan is the country that currently holds the rotating presidency of the G7. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida last month revealed a framework for international regulation of generative AI, or artificial intelligence systems that can produce new text, images, videos, and audio swiftly in response to prompts and directions. This is an additional step toward those efforts.

With its comprehensive AI Act, which is slated to go into force over the next two years and may serve as a global model, the European Union was among the first to take action. With limitations based on the degree of risk they present, the legislation targets any AI good or service provided in the 27 member countries of the union.

While some states, including California and Colorado, have been attempting to pass their own AI bills, with varying degrees of success, President Joe Biden of the United States issued an executive order on AI protections and called for legislation to reinforce it.

Big AI businesses like Microsoft, Amazon, and OpenAI are being closely examined by antitrust enforcers on both sides of the Atlantic to see if their dominating positions impede competition.

Britain’s conference last autumn launched a global conversation on taming AI’s most extreme risks. In a Seoul follow-up meeting, businesses promised to advance the technology carefully. Early in the next year, France would play host to another match in the series. With its first resolution on AI, the UN has also spoken its opinion.

Francis is scheduled for a full day of bilateral engagements in addition to his AI speech. He met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine and other leaders that were invited, including those from Algeria, Brazil, India, Kenya, and Turkey. Additionally, he will meet with President Emmanuel Macron of France, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, and Vice President Joe Biden of the G7.

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