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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.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
9 hours ago - Technology

TikTok gets more time (again)

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The White House is again giving TikTok's Chinese parent company more to satisfy national security concerns, rather than initiating legal action, a source familiar with the situation tells Axios.

The state of play: China's ByteDance had until Friday to resolve issues raised by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS), which is chaired by Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin. This was the company's third deadline, with CFIUS having provided two earlier extensions.

Federal judge orders Trump administration to restore DACA

DACA recipients and their supporters rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on June 18. Photo: Drew Angerer via Getty

A federal judge on Friday ordered the Trump administration to fully restore the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, giving undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children a chance to petition for protection from deportation.

Why it matters: DACA was implemented under former President Obama, but President Trump has sought to undo the program since taking office. Friday’s ruling will require Department of Homeland Security officers to begin accepting applications starting Monday and guarantee that work permits are valid for two years.

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