Pope Francis raises concerns about AI in first-ever pontiff address to G7

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Pope Francis warned of the dangers of artificial intelligence (AI) in the first-ever address by a pontiff to the leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) countries Friday. 

Francis described the rapidly advancing technology as an “exciting and fearsome tool” and emphasized the need for human oversight at the group’s annual summit, which was held in Borgo Egnazia, Italy. 

“Faced with the marvels of machines, which seem to know how to choose independently, we should be very clear that decision-making, even when we are confronted with its sometimes dramatic and urgent aspects, must always be left to the human person,” Francis said.  

“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 continued.  

“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,” the pontiff added. 

He specifically urged the G7 leaders to ban the use of lethal autonomous weapons, arguing that “no machine should ever choose to take the life of a human being.” 

Francis also touted the 2020 signing of the Rome Call for AI Ethics — to which the church’s Pontifical Academy for Life was one of the first signatories, alongside tech giants IBM and Microsoft — and argued AI models must have an “ethical inspiration.” 

“In order for them to be instruments for building up the good and a better tomorrow, they must always be aimed at the good of every human being,” he said. 

The pontiff called for political action on the technology at the end of his address to the G7 leaders.

“It is up to everyone to make good use of [AI], but the onus is on politics to create the conditions for such good use to be possible and fruitful,” Francis said. 

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