Realistic HD photo of a middle-aged, Italian male figure who is the head of the Italian Artificial Intelligence Committee, named Father Paolo, discussing Artificial Intelligence with an elderly, Argentinian ecclesiastical figure.

Artificial Intelligence and Ethics: A Fresh Perspective

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Artificial intelligence (AI) is undoubtedly one of the most pressing issues of our time. The way AI is governed has far-reaching consequences for enriching, rather than exploiting, human lives. Leading this charge is Father Paolo Benanti, a member of the Franciscan Order and a pioneer in technology, with the support of Pope Francis and top engineers and executives in Silicon Valley.

With a background in engineering, a PhD in ethical theology, and a passion for what he calls “the ethics of technology,” the 50-year-old Italian priest has embarked on an urgent mission that he shares with Pope Francis. In his 2024 annual peace message, the Pope endorsed an international treaty to ensure the ethical use of AI technology.

Father Benanti serves as a member of the United Nations Advisory Board on Artificial Intelligence and heads an Italian government committee tasked with making recommendations to protect journalism from falsehoods, fake news, and misinformation. He is also an advisor to the Pontifical Academy of Life in the Vatican.

When asked about his role in meetings with Pope Francis, Father Benanti states that he helps “clarify the more technical terms for the Pope.” His knowledge proved valuable during a 2023 meeting at the Vatican between Pope Francis and Microsoft President Brad Smith. The meeting focused on how AI can either help or harm humanity. According to the Vatican, Pope Francis and Smith also discussed AI’s potential “for the common good” in a meeting several years ago.

Pope Francis expresses concern about AI technology’s potential to restrict human rights. It could negatively impact someone’s loan application to buy a house, an asylum seeker’s request, or the assessment of a criminal’s likelihood to reoffend.

“It is obvious that if we choose certain data that are not adequately included, we will have options that are not included,” says Father Benanti. He notes that much of the data feeding AI comes from low-wage workers, many of whom are in developing countries with a history of colonialism and exploitation.

“I do not want this to resemble the era when intellectual resources were extracted from the global South,” he adds. If we examine “the best tools we produce for AI” in the West, we see that AI is being trained using biased data.

Father Benanti points out that AI technology can be a “truly powerful tool” in reducing the cost of healthcare and empowering doctors to help more people. However, he also describes the ethical implications of a technology that can possess the same capabilities as or even surpass humans.

“It is not a problem of using AI, but a governance problem,” the priest explains. “And this is where ethics comes in – finding the right level of use within a social framework.” Father Benanti emphasizes that much of the data informing AI is sourced from low-wage workers, many of whom reside in developing countries with a history of colonization and exploitation.

“I do not want this to resemble the era when intellectual resources were extracted from the global South,” he asserts. Examining “the best tools we produce for AI” in the West reveals that AI is being trained using biased data.

FAQ:

1. Who is Father Paolo Benanti and what is his role?
Father Paolo Benanti is a member of the Franciscan Order and serves in various advisory roles. He is a member of the United Nations Advisory Board on Artificial Intelligence, the head of an Italian government committee focusing on the protection of journalism, and an advisor to the Pontifical Academy of Life in the Vatican.

2. Which individuals has Father Benanti collaborated with in the field of AI?
Father Benanti has collaborated with Pope Francis and some of the top engineers and executives in Silicon Valley.

3. What are the concerns of Pope Francis regarding AI?
Pope Francis is concerned about the potential of AI technology to limit human rights and impact various aspects of individuals’ lives, such as loan applications, asylum requests, and the assessment of criminal behavior.

4. What are the ethical implications of AI?
The ethical implications of AI include ensuring fair and unbiased data use, avoiding the exploitation of low-wage workers in developing countries, and finding the right balance of AI use within a societal framework.

5. How is AI related to reducing the cost of healthcare?
AI technology has the potential to reduce healthcare costs by improving efficiency and empowering doctors to provide better care to a larger number of people.

Definitions:

1. Artificial Intelligence (AI): The field of study and practice that focuses on designing and developing intelligent machines capable of performing tasks that typically require human intelligence.

Recommended sources:
– United Nations – Ministerial Panel on Artificial Intelligence
– Pontifical Academy of Life