Nov 4, 2020 - Technology

Pope Francis prays for good AI

Pope Francis at his weekly general audience at the Vatican on Oct. 28.

Pope Francis at his weekly general audience at the Vatican on Oct. 28. Photo: Franco Origlia/Getty Images

For his monthly intention in November, Pope Francis prayed that AI will be beneficial for humanity.

Why it matters: It's up for debate whether the development of automation and AI will ultimately be good for humankind, and it can't hurt to have a little divine intervention on our side.

What he's saying: "We pray that the progress of robotics and artificial intelligence may always serve humankind," reads Francis' intention for November, which is published each month by the Pope's Worldwide Prayer Network.

Background: This isn't the first time Francis has ventured into the fraught territory of AI ethics and alignment.

  • In February, the Vatican hosted executives from IBM and Microsoft for a summit on "human-centered" ways of designing AI.
  • They formulated the "Rome Call for AI Ethics," which called for AI to be designed with a focus on the good of the environment and "our common and shared home and of its human inhabitants."
  • In his own comments after the summit, Francis warned accurately that AI could worsen economic inequalities, but he also put his hope in the "immense potential that new technologies offer."

The other side: While we may want AI to "serve humankind," that servitude could get tricky should we ever develop fully conscious machines that can think, feel and perhaps even believe.

  • "If you create other things that think for themselves, a serious theological disruption will occur," Wired co-founder Kevin Kelly told The Atlantic in 2017.
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