Artificial intelligence must not hurt the most vulnerable, pope says

Artificial intelligence must not hurt the most vulnerable, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis criticized the use of artificial intelligence in ways that negatively affect the most vulnerable, specifically those seeking asylum.

“It is not acceptable that the decision about someone’s life and future be entrusted to an algorithm,” he said Jan. 10 in an address to experts and religious leaders taking part in an event sponsored by the Pontifical Academy for Life promoting the ethical development of artificial intelligence.

Artificial intelligence “is increasingly present in every aspect of daily life,” the pope said, and it is increasingly being used in decision making.

“Every person must be able to enjoy a human and supportive development, without anyone being excluded,” he said.

“We must therefore be vigilant and work to ensure that the discriminatory use of these instruments does not take root at the expense of the most fragile and excluded,” he said, specifically noting, “the example of asylum seekers.”

Artificial intelligence tools, such as biometric data collection using iris and fingerprint recognition technology and data scraping technology to screen, track or locate individuals, are increasingly being used for immigration and asylum controls, prioritization and management. While the tools promise increased efficiency, critics point to concerns about transparency and the risk of violating people’s human rights, privacy and safety.

The Jan. 10 event at the Vatican included the signing of the academy’s Rome Call for AI Ethics by representatives of the three Abrahamic religions: Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the papal academy; Chief Rabbi Eliezer Simcha Weisz, member of the Chief Rabbinate Council of Israel; and Sheikh Al-Mahfoudh bin Abdallah of the Abu Dhabi Forum for Peace.

Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, and Dario Gil, global vice president of IBM, who were among the first signatories of the Rome Call in 2020 also attended the event and the papal audience.

In his address, Pope Francis encouraged participants in their work, saying he was “pleased to know that you also wish to involve the other great world religions and men and women of goodwill so that ‘algor-ethics’ — ethical reflection on the use of algorithms — will be increasingly present not only in public debate, but also in the development of technical solutions.”

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Copyright © 2023 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

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