Pope Francis Warns of AI Dangers in First G-7 Address, Calls for ‘Human Control’

Pope Francis delivered his first-ever papal address at a G-7 conference on Friday, expressing concern about the ethical implications of artificial intelligence.

Addressing the council of world leaders, the pope acknowledged the immense potential benefits of AI for humanity but warned about its potential to dehumanize society.

“The question of artificial intelligence, however, is often perceived as ambiguous: on the one hand, it generates excitement for the possibilities it offers, while on the other, it gives rise to fear for the consequences it foreshadows,” Pope Francis stated in his remarks.

He elaborated, “In this regard, we could say that all of us, albeit to varying degrees, experience two emotions: we are enthusiastic when we imagine the advances that can result from artificial intelligence but, at the same time, we are fearful when we acknowledge the dangers inherent in its use.” 

Drawing a parallel between AI and primitive flint knives and firearms, the pontiff recognized that every technological advancement in human history has presented opportunities for both self-improvement and violence.

The pontiff cautioned that an irresponsible pursuit of AI technology without ethical safeguards could exacerbate the modern “throwaway culture” and dehumanize vulnerable societies unable to resist technocratic systems due to poverty or technological illiteracy.

“Due to its radical freedom, humanity has not infrequently corrupted the purposes of its being, turning into an enemy of itself and of the planet,” Pope Francis warned. “The same fate may befall technological tools.”

Specifically, the pope expressed concern that AI compromises the integrity and human dignity essential for education, the criminal justice system, and warfare.

“We would condemn humanity to a future without hope if we took away people’s ability to make decisions about themselves and their lives, by dooming them to depend on the choices of machines,” he told the world leaders. “We need to ensure and safeguard a space for proper human control over the choices made by artificial intelligence programs: human dignity itself depends on it.”

“Much needs to change, through fundamental reform and major renewal. Only a healthy politics, involving the most diverse sectors and skills, is capable of overseeing this process.”

Pope Francis has been a vocal critic of artificial intelligence since the technology gained widespread attention last year.

He has previously argued that global “technocratic systems” could exploit the efficiencies of AI without regard for the broader impacts on the poor, sacrificing humanity for efficiency.