Pope Francis warns AI exploited by ‘technocratic systems’ could ‘pose a risk to our survival’

Pope Francis warned world leaders on Thursday that uninhibited and reckless development of artificial intelligence could pose a profound risk to humanity.

The pope made the statements in an address to the world in honor of the upcoming 57th annual World Day of Peace on Jan. 1.

“We rightly rejoice and give thanks for the impressive achievements of science and technology, as a result of which countless ills that formerly plagued human life and caused great suffering have been remedied,” the pope said.

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He continued, “At the same time, techno-scientific advances, by making it possible to exercise hitherto unprecedented control over reality, are placing in human hands a vast array of options, including some that may pose a risk to our survival and endanger our common home.”

Pope Francis noted that “artificial intelligence” remains a vague term that can apply to a “galaxy of different realities” in developing technological fields.

The pontiff cautioned leaders to examine closely the “aims and interests” of developers seeking to create powerful AI technologies, warning these intentions may not always have the betterment of humanity at its core.

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“Freedom and peaceful coexistence are threatened whenever human beings yield to the temptation to selfishness, self-interest, the desire for profit and the thirst for power,” Pope Francis wrote. “We thus have a duty to broaden our gaze and to direct techno-scientific research towards the pursuit of peace and the common good, in the service of the integral development of individuals and communities.”

The pontiff speculated that global “technocratic systems” could exploit the efficiencies of AI without regard for the larger impacts on the poor, sacrificing humanity for efficiency.

“There is a risk that the criteria behind certain decisions will become less clear, responsibility for those decisions concealed, and producers enabled to evade their obligation to act for the benefit of the community,” Pope Francis wrote.

He continued, “In some sense, this is favoured by the technocratic system, which allies the economy with technology and privileges the criterion of efficiency, tending to ignore anything unrelated to its immediate interests.”

The World Day of Peace is a Catholic day of celebration held annually on Jan. 1. It is a non-liturgical event and not part of the church calendar.

It was established by Pope John XXIII in 1967 and is usually commemorated by the Vatican with a message from the pontiff addressing threats to peace and stability in the current year.

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