Pope Francis addresses G-7 in advisory role on AI

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Bari, Italy – Pope Francis is an elderly man who says he can't use a computer, but one afternoon in February 2019, a top diplomat from American Big Tech entered the papal residence with a message on the ethics of gestating technology: artificial intelligence. Guided about.

Microsoft President Brad Smith and Pope discussed the technology's rapid growth, Smith explained in an interview with The Washington Post, and Francis understood its dangers. As Smith departed, Pope gave a warning. “Keep your humanity,” he urged, grabbing Smith's wrist.

In the five years since that meeting, AI has become inevitable — as the Pope himself found out last year when viral photos of him in a Balenciaga puffer jacket ushered in a new era of deepfakes. And as the technology has expanded, the Vatican has positioned itself as the conscience of companies like Microsoft and emerged as a surprisingly influential voice in the debate over global governance of AI.

Frances He arrived in southern Italy on Friday to become the first pope to address a Group of Seven forum of world leaders, joining a session at the summit dedicated to AI.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said in a statement announcing the invitation that “His presence will play a decisive role in defining a code of ethics, moral and cultural framework for artificial intelligence.”

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As the Pope sought to raise the urgency of climate change, Francis is now zooming in on AI – a technology he has said “threatens our survival” and “threatens our common home”. I can put.”

His concerns are less focused on sci-fi movies' predictions of bad machines, or how the possibility of sentient AI might challenge the basic definition of life. Rather, it has focused on the apocalyptic potential of weaponized AI. He fears the end of humanity as algorithms begin to decide the outcome of everything from asylum applications to bank loans. He heralds the “exciting opportunities” of technology, but worries about its power to deepen inequality within and between nations. They insist that these risks must be managed through a global agreement to regulate AI.

“The unique human capacity for moral judgment and ethical decision-making is more than a complex set of algorithms, and this capacity cannot be reduced to programming a machine, which, however 'intelligent' it may be, remains a machine. Is.” The Pope said in December. “For this reason, it is important to ensure adequate, meaningful and consistent human monitoring of weapons systems.”

On Friday, world leaders — backed by the Vatican — are set to unveil a badge of honor of sorts: a new label for companies that are safe and ethical, according to a person familiar with the G-7 discussions. Agree to develop AI tools. spoke on condition of anonymity to explain the plan ahead of his release. This label would amount to a “voluntary” commitment, backed up by a monitoring and reporting system.

The AI ​​issue has created an opening for a church that has fallen short of addressing religious sexual abuse to reassert moral authority. Microsoft and at least some other tech companies appear eager for the Catholic Church's approval, as the industry grapples with the public relations challenges of technology that can automate jobs, amplify disinformation and cybercrime. May create new security risks.

The Rome Call for AI Ethics — a document that counted the Vatican, Microsoft and IBM among its original signatories in 2020 — is emerging as the gold standard for best AI practices. Representatives of Judaism and Islam signed last year. Next month, several Eastern faiths will join the list, which now includes hundreds of companies, universities and a United Nations agency pursuing global guidelines.

The Vatican has secured a seat at the Big Tech table. An ancient institution with a mixed track record on science — see Galileo's trial — is now sending representatives to major tech events.

Rev. Paolo Benanti — the Vatican's leading AI expert, a Franciscan priest and a trained engineer credited with coining the term “algorithmics” — won a seat on the United Nations' advisory body on artificial intelligence last year and is an important Became a player. Developing a national AI policy for the G-7 country Italy. At the request of the Vatican, the IMB hosted a global summit of universities at Notre Dame to bring AI ethics to the forefront of the curriculum.

Vatican views have influenced sound business decisions. Smith told The Post: “We developed our technology that would enable anyone to copy it with just a few seconds of sound. And we chose not to release it. He added that Room Call is “definitely part of what has helped us at Microsoft try to take a broader approach to AI development, including within our own four walls. I think it provided a broader human and intellectual frame.”

Natasha Crompton, Microsoft's chief AI officer, said the commitment's emphasis on inclusion also influenced the company's decision to launch a fellowship that brings together researchers and civil society leaders from the global South at large to examine the technology's impact. collects Fellows have helped the company develop multilingual evaluations of AI models, and ensure the company understands local context and cultural norms as it develops new products.

Not all companies adhere to the Rome rules. Some have gone ahead with AI-manipulated audio that researchers warn could be abused to trick voters ahead of elections.

Not everyone is allowed to join a room club. Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said Huawei asked. “And we said no, because we don't really know what. [people in charge there] Think.”

Meanwhile, the Vatican is concerned about the misuse of open-source AI. Benanti said the technology could create huge benefits in health care and education. “But it can also increase many bad elements in society, and we can't spread AI everywhere without any political decision-making, because tomorrow we may wake up with biological weapons, multipliers of inequality,” he said. said

Vatican officials have already raised the alarm over what they see as potentially unethical uses, including of facial recognition systems deployed in a 2019-2020 crackdown on protesters in Hong Kong, as well as refugees. Key processing algorithms such as in Germany, where linguistics is promoted with the help of AI. Tests have been used to determine whether asylum seekers are lying about their places of origin.

The relationship between the Vatican and AI innovators began in a 2018 speech Benanti gave on AI ethics. A senior Microsoft representative in Italy was in the audience, and the two began meeting regularly. He brought in Paglia, who was interested in broadening his academy's remit beyond basic issues like the ethics of stem cell research.

Prior to Smith's visit with the Pope, Paglia took him through Michelangelo's “Last Judgment” in the Sistine Chapel, and was shown by Galileo the Earth revolving around the sun—a theory that led to his church trial. Detained for life after the hearing. .

Yet the Vatican's relationship with science has not always been Luddite. In the Middle Ages, Catholic scholars seeded Europe to build its greatest universities. And although targeted by some individual clerics, Darwin's theory of evolution was never officially challenged by the Vatican.

The Church officially declares that “faith and reason” do not conflict.

“The Bible doesn't tell us how heaven works, but how to get there,” Paglia said, quoting Galileo. The Archbishop has made official visits to Microsoft's headquarters near Seattle and IBM's offices in New York.

Through aggressive AI investments, Microsoft has become the world's most valuable company, worth more than $3 trillion. But its continued success depends on curbing negative perceptions of AI. Concerns that tech could displace jobs, increase inequality, supercharge surveillance and unleash new forms of warfare are prompting governments around the world to consider tougher regulations that companies can destroy the ambitions of

The European Union is preparing a landmark antitrust law that could limit more advanced generative AI models. The Federal Trade Commission is investigating a deal Microsoft struck with AI startup Inflection, probing whether the tech giant made investments to deliberately avoid merger review. And U.S. regulators reached a deal that will open the company to greater scrutiny over how it wields the power to dominate artificial intelligence, including its billions of dollars in ChatGPT maker OpenAI. Investment of The relationship has also exposed Microsoft to new reputational risks, as OpenAI chief executive Sam Altman often invites controversy.

Under Smith's leadership, Microsoft has built a sophisticated global lobbying organization to mitigate its regulatory challenges and try to convince people that it is the tech titan the world can trust to build AI. Smith regularly meets with heads of state, including at a factory opening with President Biden last month. To be an effective business, Microsoft has to find ways to work with governments and ensure its technology can outpace them, Smith said.

He said the “world's oldest international organization” could be a unique teacher and partner in this endeavour. Catholicism and other religions are not bound by national borders – much like petitions Microsoft is selling globally.

“On one level, you can look at the two of us and think we're weird bedfellows,” Smith said. “But on the other hand, it's a great combination.”

Zakrzewski reported from Washington.

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