The Pope asks that progress in robotics and artificial intelligence “be human”
“The Pope Video” for November has been released with a message about the progress resulting from advances in robotics and artificial intelligence. Francis emphasizes the need to orient it “towards respecting the dignity of the person and of Creation.”
Technological progress: an epochal change
(Vatican City, November 5, 2020) – The Pope Video for November has just been released with the prayer intention that Francis entrusts to the entire Catholic Church through the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network (which includes the Eucharistic Youth Movement – EYM). This month, the Holy Father calls our attention to the epochal change that humanity is experiencing thanks to advances in artificial intelligence. For Francis, this progress should always “serve humankind,” respecting human dignity and taking care of Creation. This edition of The Pope Video was made with the support of Enel, a multinational energy company and one of the principle players in world markets for energy, gas, and renewable energy.
It is not news that, in recent years, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has advanced exponentially, as evidenced by its many applications in different fields of knowledge. Today, 37% of organizations in the world have implemented AI in some way (which represents a 270% increase in the past four years).
Pope Francis clarifies that this progress, as well as that in robotics, “can make a better world possible if it is joined to the common good.” In this sense, he hopes for technological progress that does not increase the inequalities in society; if it does, it will not be “true progress,” one that takes into account the dignity of the human person and care for Creation.
Artificial intelligence is capable of addressing many problems facing humanity: among others, it can evaluate the learning capacity of students, in order to detect opportunities for improvement; it can help people with visual or hearing impairments by developing better communication tools (such as converting text to speech or speech to text); and it can speed up the collection, processing and diffusion of health data to improve the diagnosis and treatment of patients, especially those living in remote areas. The same applies in the field of ecology: for example, thanks to artificial intelligence, it’s possible to analyze data on climate change and create models that can help predict natural disasters. It also can be used to create intelligent and sustainable cities: by reducing urban spending, improving the resilience of highways and increasing energy efficiency, among other things. There are vast possibilities for using this technological progress for the common good, and this video, put together using images from Enel and the Italian Institute of Technology, shows some of them.
“Innovation,” says Enel’s CEO, engineer Francesco Starace, “has placed at our disposition extraordinary tools that we need to be capable of using in the best possible way. As Pope Francis reaffirms, it is our task to ensure that the resulting benefits are distributed fairly and create opportunities and wellbeing. In order to give a positive orientation to our actions and choices regarding the present and the future, we must put respect for people and for the environment at the center, adopting a vision based on sustainability. Only in this way can technological evolution be an ally of humanity and create opportunities which, up until a few years ago, we couldn’t even imagine.”
Fr. Frédéric Fornos S.J., International Director of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, says, “The transformation of our societies also transforms our work. These are rapid changes that we have to direct so that they will be for the good of all. This prayer intention reinforces the idea that the benefit that humanity has obtained (and will continue to obtain) from technological progress must always take into account as well, and in parallel, ‘adequate development of responsibility and values.’ This is how the Pope expressed it in his encyclicals Laudato si’ and now in Fratelli tutti: ‘How wonderful it would be if the growth of scientific and technological innovation could come with more equality and social inclusion!’. We know that artificial intelligence, robotics, and other applications of technology open great challenges for ethics and social justice. This is why the Pope’s most recent petition is important: to pray that this progress will always ‘be human.’