Pope Francis warns of AI in first-ever G-7 papal address, urges ‘safeguards’ for ‘proper human control’

Pope Francis delivered the first-ever papal address at a G-7 conference on Friday, warning about the ethical pitfalls of artificial intelligence.

The pope told the council of world leaders in Fasano, Italy, that AI offers immense benefit to the human race, but also threatens to dehumanize society.

“The question of artificial intelligence, however, is often perceived as ambiguous: on the one hand, it generates excitement for the possibilities it offers, while on the other, it gives rise to fear for the consequences it foreshadows,” Pope Francis said in his remarks.

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He continued, “In this regard, we could say that all of us, albeit to varying degrees, experience two emotions: we are enthusiastic when we imagine the advances that can result from artificial intelligence but, at the same time, we are fearful when we acknowledge the dangers inherent in its use.” 

Comparing AI to primitive flint knives and nuclear energy, the pontiff acknowledged that every development in human technology has presented opportunities for both self-improvement and violence.

The pontiff warned that an irresponsible pursuit of AI technology without ethical barriers could exacerbate modern “throwaway culture” and dehumanize vulnerable societies unable to resist technocratic systems due to poverty or technological illiteracy.

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Pope Francis G-7

“Due to its radical freedom, humanity has not infrequently corrupted the purposes of its being, turning into an enemy of itself and of the planet,” Pope Francis warned. “The same fate may befall technological tools.”

Specifically, the pope warned that AI compromises the integrity and human dignity necessary for children’s education, the criminal justice system, and warfare.

“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 told the world leaders. “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.”

Pope Francis G-7

“Much needs to change, through fundamental reform and major renewal. Only a healthy politics, involving the most diverse sectors and skills, is capable of overseeing this process.”

Pope Francis has been an outspoken skeptic of artificial intelligence since the technology received widespread attention last year.

He speculated in December 2023 that global “technocratic systems” could exploit the efficiencies of AI without regard for the larger impacts on the poor, sacrificing humanity for efficiency.

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