There was quite a stir on the internet when a picture of Pope Francis surfaced in a snow-white puffer jacket. It emerged that this had been created by artificial intelligence. The pontiff has stated that ‘artificial intelligence, robotics, and other technological innovations must be so employed that they contribute to the service of humanity and to the protection of our common home’. He also warned of the dangers of technology when it is not used in the service of the common good. In his encyclical letter ‘Laudato Si’ published in 2015, Pope Francis wrote that ‘the technocratic paradigm tends to dominate economic and political life. The economy accepts every advance in technology with a view to profit, without concern for its potentially negative impact on human beings’.
So is the new craze for use of artificial intelligence (AI) against our religion? What should Catholics think of AI?
There is no official Catholic position on the topic. However, one important principle for Catholics is the concept of human dignity, which holds that all human beings are created in the image and likeness of God and therefore possess inherent worth and value. Catholics should consider AI on how it affects human dignity – does it promotes the common good or cause harm to individuals or society? AI could be used to improve access to healthcare, education, and other basic needs, or it could increase inequalities and reinforce biases. It could also be used to better understand scripture and the word of God.
But who is responsible when an AI system makes a harmful decision? How can we ensure that AI is used ethically and responsibly? Pope Francis has called for greater dialogue and collaboration between science, technology, and ethics. He has emphasised the need for ethical considerations to be integrated into technological development and for ethical principles to guide decision-making in the field of AI. The rapid development and use of AI is a tide that we cannot hold back.
How can Catholics ensure they use AI in ways to complement their faith?
Catholics can ensure that they use AI in ways that complement their faith by considering the ethical implications of AI and applying Catholic teachings and principles to their use of the technology. Here are a few practical ways Catholics can approach the use of AI:
1.Consider the impact on human dignity: Catholics can evaluate the use of AI based on how it affects human dignity, such as whether it promotes the common good or causes harm to individuals or society.
2.Emphasise ethical responsibility: Catholics can prioritise ethical responsibility in the development and use of AI, considering questions of accountability, transparency, and responsibility.
3.Promote the common good: Catholics can seek to use AI in ways that promote the common good, such as improving access to healthcare, education, and other basic needs, while avoiding uses that exacerbate inequalities or reinforce biases.
4.Integrate ethical considerations: Catholics can integrate ethical considerations into the development and use of AI, by asking questions such as, how will this technology affect human relationships, the environment, and the dignity of human life?
5. Engage in dialogue and collaboration: Catholics can participate in dialogue and collaboration between science, technology, and ethics, seeking to contribute to the development of AI in ways that align with Catholic teachings and principles.
The section above, in italics was provided by the AI programme, Chatgpt which is a scary thought. So rather than being outside the debate that many governments are having about security etc, religious leaders and the laity need to spearhead the huge ethical debate on how AI can be used to enhance our faith and bring about a more humane world.