I warmly welcome all of you who are gathered in Rome for your annual meeting. Your meeting brings together professionals from the world of technology – scientists, engineers, business leaders, lawyers and philosophers – along with church representatives –
Korea officials, theologians, and moral theologians—with the goal of raising awareness and reflection on the social and cultural impact of digital technologies, especially artificial intelligence. I greatly appreciate this course of dialogue that has allowed in recent years to share contributions and ideas and to use the wisdom of others. Your presence is a testament to the effort to ensure a serious and inclusive discussion at the global level about the responsible use of these technologies, a debate open to religious values. I am convinced that dialogue between believers and non-believers on fundamental questions of ethics, science, art, and the search for the meaning of life is a path to building peace and integral human development.
Technology is very useful to mankind. Consider the countless advances in medicine, engineering, and communications (cf. Encyclical Letter Laudato C, 102). While recognizing the usefulness of science and technology, we see in them evidence of human creativity as well as of the nobility of his vocation to participate responsibly in God’s creative work (cf. Ibid. 131).
The evolution of the
From this perspective, I believe that the development of artificial intelligence and machine learning has the potential to make a beneficial contribution to the future of mankind; We can’t push it aside. However, I am sure that only this possibility
It will only be achieved if there is a firm will on the part of those who develop technologies in these areas
prevails to act ethically and responsibly. In this sense, there is satisfaction in the commitment of the many people who work in these areas to ensure that technology is people-centered and that planning is ethical and focused on the good. I am pleased that a consensus has emerged that development processes respect values such as inclusiveness, transparency, integrity, fairness, confidentiality, and reliability. I am also happy to support the efforts of international organizations to organize these technologies so that they promote real progress, that is, contribute to leaving a better world and a better quality of life in general (cf. Ibid. , 194).
Reaching agreement in these areas will not be easy. Because “the tremendous technological growth has not kept pace with the development of human responsibility, values and conscience” (Ibid. , 105). In addition, today’s world is characterized by a great plurality of political systems, cultures, traditions, philosophical and ethical concepts, and religious beliefs. Discussions are increasingly polarized, and in the absence of trust and a shared vision of what makes life worth living, public debates risk becoming polemical and unproductive.
Only comprehensive dialogue, in which people seek the truth together, can produce true consensus; And this can happen if one shares the conviction that he is “in the reality of man and society itself […] set of basic structures [gibt]that ensure their development and survival” (General Letter Fratelli Totti, 212). The fundamental value that we must recognize and promote is the dignity of the human person (cf. Ibid. , 213). So I invite you
To make the inherent dignity of every man and woman in your decisions a basic criterion in evaluating emerging technology, and to reveal its moral positivity to the extent that it contributes to the manifestation of that dignity and enhances its expression, at all levels of human life.
What worries me is that the data collected so far shows that digital technologies have increased inequality in the world. Not only are differences in material wealth important, but also in access to political and social influence. We ask ourselves: Are our national and international institutions able to hold technology companies responsible for the social and cultural impact of their products? There is a risk that increasing inequality among our human beings
And can it harm the social awareness of solidarity? Could we lose our sense of a common destiny? Indeed, our aim is that the growth of scientific and technological innovation may be accompanied by greater social equality and inclusion (cf. Video message to the TED conference in Vancouver26 April 2017).
from the dialogue
This problem of inequality can be complicated by a misunderstanding of merit that undermines the idea of human dignity. There is a basis for recognizing and rewarding human achievement and effort, but there is the danger of seeing the economic merits of the few as deserving, while the poverty of the many is seen as somewhat self-inflicted. This approach devalues inequalities in people’s starting points in terms of wealth, educational opportunities, and social connections, and portrays privileges and advantages as personal accomplishments. So if, from a schematic point of view, poverty is the fault of the poor, then it is the rich who are excused from an action (cf. Addressing the world of workGenoa, 27 May 2017).
The concept of human dignity – this is the key point – forces us to recognize and respect the fact that the fundamental value of a person cannot be measured by a set of data. In social and economic decision-making processes, we must be careful about attributing judgments to algorithms that evaluate—often covertly—data collected about individuals, their characteristics, and their past behavior. This data can be tainted by societal biases and preconceived notions, primarily because an individual’s past behavior should not be used to deny him or her the opportunity to change, grow, and contribute to society. We must not allow algorithms to diminish or influence respect for human dignity, nor should they exclude empathy, compassion, tolerance, and above all openness to hope for personal change.
In closing, dear friends, I would like to express once again my conviction that only truly inclusive forms of dialogue can wisely discern how artificial intelligence and digital technologies can be placed at the service of the human family. The biblical story of the Tower of Babel (cf. gene 11) To warn against excessive ambition in science and technology. Indeed, the Bible warns us against arrogance in reaching “heaven” (v. 4), that is, usurping the horizon of values that constitute and guarantee our human dignity. In the legend of the Tower of Babel, it is difficult to make a brick: prick the mud, make straw, mix, and then burn… If the brick fell, it was a great loss, and they lamented deeply: “We lost a brick.” If a worker fell, no one would say anything. This should make us think: what is more important? The bricks or the man or woman who works?
This is a distinction that should make us think. And after the Tower of Babel, like any divine intervention, the subsequent creation of different languages becomes a new possibility. It invites us to see difference and diversity as wealth, because uniformity does not make us grow, uniformity imposes. Only a certain disciplinary regularity is good – it can be – but imposed uniformity is worthless. A lack of diversity is a lack of richness, for diversity obliges us to learn from each other and to humbly rediscover the true meaning and scope of our human dignity. Let us not forget that disagreements stimulate creativity. “They create tensions, and in resolving tensions lies the progress of humanity” (Encyclical Letter) Fratelli Totti203) when tensions are resolved at a higher level, which does not destroy the poles of tension but allows them to ripen.
I wish you success in your dialogues, and thank you for your efforts in listening and growing in understanding each individual’s contribution. I bless you and ask you to pray for me. Thanks.
(Original Italian text on 27.3.2023 or 27.3.2023)
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