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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.

Go deeper

Nov 21, 2020 - Economy & Business

Touchless travel could threaten airport jobs

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photos: Universal History Archive, Pictorial Parade/Getty Images

Air travel is becoming a touchless, self-directed journey, which poses a threat to traditional airport customer service jobs.

Why it matters: Automation and artificial intelligence have long been viewed as a threat to jobs, but the unprecedented disruption COVID-19 is posing to the travel industry could have lasting workforce implications.

Senate retirements could attract GOP troublemakers

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Roy Blunt's retirement highlights the twin challenge facing Senate Republicans: finding good replacement candidates and avoiding a pathway for potential troublemakers to join their ranks.

Why it matters: While the midterm elections are supposed to be a boon to the party out of power, the recent run of retirements — which may not be over — is upending that assumption for the GOP in 2022.

Congressional diversity growing - slowly

Data: Brookings Institution and Pew Research Center; Note: No data on Native Americans in Congress before the 107th Congress; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

The number of non-white senators and House members in the 535-seat Congress has been growing steadily in the past several decades — but representation largely lags behind the overall U.S. population.

Why it matters: Non-whites find it harder to break into the power system because of structural barriers such as the need to quit a job to campaign full time for office, as Axios reported in its latest Hard Truths Deep Dive.

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