Pope Francis has requested believers all over the world to hope that robots and synthetic intelligence “all the time serve mankind.”
The message is likely one of the pope’s month-to-month prayer intentions — common missives shared on YouTube which can be supposed to assist Catholics “deepen their every day prayer” by specializing in specific matters or occasions. In August, the pope urged prayer for “the maritime world”; in April, the subject was “freedom for habit.” Now, in November, it’s AI and robots.
Though the message sounds much like warnings issued by tech notables like Elon Musk (the Tesla CEO famously compared work on synthetic intelligence to “summoning the demon”), the pope’s focus is extra prosaic. He doesn’t appear to be worrying concerning the type of unique doomsday situation the place a superintelligent AI turns the world into paperclips, however extra about how the tech may exacerbate present inequalities right here and now.
(We must always be aware additionally that the decision to prayer got here out earlier this month, however we solely noticed it not too long ago by way of the Import AI newsletter due to the… occasions which have taken up a lot of everybody’s time, vitality, and basic psychological acuity in current weeks.)
In his message, the pope stated AI was “on the coronary heart of the epochal change we’re experiencing” and that robotics had the facility to vary the world for the higher. However this could solely be the case if these forces are harnessed accurately, he stated. “Certainly, if technological progress will increase inequalities, it isn’t true progress. Future advances needs to be oriented in direction of respecting the dignity of the particular person.”
Maybe surprisingly, this isn’t new territory for the pope. Earlier this yr, the Vatican, together with Microsoft and IBM, endorsed the “Rome Name for AI Ethics” — a coverage doc containing six basic ideas that information the deployment of synthetic intelligence. These embody transparency, inclusion, impartiality, and reliability, all wise attributes in the case of deploying algorithms.
Though the pope didn’t contact on any specific examples in his video, it’s straightforward to consider ways in which AI is entrenching or rising divisions in society. Examples embody biased facial recognition methods that lead to false arrests and algorithmically allotted examination outcomes that replicate present inequalities between college students. In different phrases: no matter whether or not you assume prayer is the suitable plan of action, the pope definitely has some extent.