Are AI Ties With The Pope And Microsoft Safe For Choice?

By Donald A. Collins | 17 June 2024
Church and State

(Credit: YouTube / screengrab)

Astonished would be my mild response to the June 14th article in the Washington Post entitled “How Pope Francis became the AI ethicist for world leaders and tech titans”.

The story begins

Pope Francis is an octogenarian who says he cannot use a computer, but on a February afternoon in 2019, a top diplomat of American Big Tech entered the papal residence seeking guidance on the ethics of a gestating technology: artificial intelligence.

Microsoft President Brad Smith and the pope discussed the rapid development of the technology, Smith recounted in an interview with The Washington Post, and Francis appeared to grasp its risks. As Smith departed, the pope uttered a warning. “Keep your humanity,” he urged, as he held Smith’s wrist.

In the five years since that meeting, AI has become unavoidable — as the pope himself found out last year when viral images of him in a Balenciaga puffer jacket heralded a new era of deepfakes. And as the technology has proliferated, the Vatican has positioned itself as the conscience of companies like Microsoft and emerged as a surprisingly influential voice in the debate over AI’s global governance.

In southern Italy on Friday, Francis became the first pope to address a Group of Seven forum of world leaders, delivering a moral treatise on the “cognitive-industrial revolution” represented by AI, as he sought to elevate the topic in the same manner he did climate change.

He is a liberal practicing Catholic and his meeting with the Pope is certainly no surprise, but it did imply the Pope had a legitimate role to play in Al.

In a sweeping speech, the pope sketched out the ramifications of a technology “as fascinating as it is terrifying,” saying it could change “the way we conceive of our identity as human beings.” He decried how AI could cement the dominance of Western culture and diminish human dignity.

You can read the full article here.

Brad Smith the Microsoft President has assembled a group of distinguished secular commentators on AI but also said this about the Pope’s involvement:

Today at the G7, Pope Francis reminded us of the importance of keeping humans at the center of AI development. As an early signatory of The Rome Call for AI Ethics, Microsoft endorses the Vatican’s work to bring together diverse and global perspectives to ensure AI advances ethically and responsibly to benefit all humanity. Smith’s own statement reflects the need for broad concern about making AI develop in a controlled way which benefits all mankind.

Here a sample of his statement:

As new technology develops, new disciplines need to emerge, and it’s not just about the technology itself. I remembered starting in my early years at Microsoft in 1996, the European Community, as it was then called, adopted the first data protection directive. At the time, there was no such thing as a privacy lawyer. And yet today you can go to the annual meeting of the International Association of Privacy Professionals and you will find that they have more than 30,000 members. A new profession was born. In part because of the work of this, a cybersecurity profession was born. And I believe that if we move quickly to adopt this and implement it, we can give birth to what the world needs, a new profession dedicated to responsible artificial intelligence. Already at Microsoft, we have more than 350 people working in this new discipline, and this framework can help it spread faster.

Read his full piece here.

One must wonder what the Pope brings to this discussion except the opportunity to bring his ideology into the center of a vital secular issue. We have just experienced the horrendous example of religious ideology infecting the health of women as the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision in June 2024 killed Roe Casey.

I immediately began thinking of the Vatican’s treatment of science when in 1633 it put Galileo under permanent house arrest for having proved the earth circled the Sun. The selection of the present Pope to serve as a central arbiter of Al integrity because he impressed tech leaders seems to ignore our precious doctrine of keeping matters of church and state separate.

What inputs are going to ensue from other religious leaders or atheists? Giving primacy to a religious organization with its record of dangerous behavior that has badly affected humanity since its founding hardly aligns with the Pope’s instruction to Microsoft President Brad Smith to “Keep your humanity”.

Here we have another Catholic coup which allows its religious views to permeate into whatever final document this powerful group agrees on. In the contemporary world, after its priests have violated children, American Indians, and attacked women’s reproductive rights, this historically brutal organization does not deserve such power.

Using the kind of false argumentation that characterizes Catholic strategies to gain power was this commentary to the Post article:

Either an amazing marketing campaign to make readers support Microsoft and its nefarious plans or a brilliant authentic honest hope to brush aside all the fake negativity against Microsoft brought by powerful political interests to stop Microsoft and the Vatican from being a moral conscience of AI and allow these powerful interests to be able to maintain their immoral pursuit of wealth and domination of the world. Who to believe? Crap (sorry about the word but it’s how important this article’s premise is). This is one of the most vital humanity survival topics today, along with climate change (or more politically acceptable massive weather pattern changes). Thank you, Washington Post, the Pope, and Microsoft for giving readers an alternative perspective to ponder on!

Talk your way into a powerful group and then add your religious dimension! Here it is from the Post article:

AI, he (the pope) said, stood as a tool that could democratize knowledge, “exponentially” advance science and alleviate the human condition as people give “arduous work to machines.” But he warned that it also has the power to destroy — and called for an “urgent” ban on lethal autonomous weapons. As a ghost of the future, he referenced the 1907 dystopian novel “Lord of the World,” in which technology replaces religion and faith in God.

“No machine should ever choose to take the life of a human being,” the pope said.

He has previously insisted that AI’s risks must be managed through a global treaty, and on Friday he endorsed the need for a set of uniting global “principles” to guide AI’s development.

“The Rome Call for AI Ethics” — a document that counted the Vatican, Microsoft and IBM among its original signatories in 2020 — is emerging as a gold standard of best AI practices. It has informed G-7 discussions about developing a code of conduct.

No mystery there about the Pope’s intent to enshrine his religious stamp on AI!

As the earth’s environment hurtles toward a possible 6th Extinction, the case for adding more humans requiring more resources than our present 8 billion now using unsustainable resources has been made over and over and ignored by Vatican policies for decades. Women worldwide need access to family planning and the freedom to use it, but the Catholic ideologues on our Supreme Court and these numerous religious zealot partners are seeking at every opportunity to block them.

In summary, this Pope, the leader of the longest running global pedophile organization shouldn’t be commenting on the ethics of AI – but apologies for what his world wide organization had done to various sexually attacked groups were only words, over and over again.

The Pope doesn’t use a computer but has used his celebrity to gain undue access to the implementation of a secular matter. This religious icon’s views on Al are patently irrelevant. The surge of right-wing religiosity in governance in the US needs preventive action.

Former US Navy officer, banker and venture capitalist, Donald A. Collins, a free lance writer living in Washington, DC, has spent over 50 years working for women’s reproductive health as a board member and/or officer of numerous family planning organizations including Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Guttmacher Institute, Family Health International and Ipas. Yale under graduate, NYU MBA. He is the author of “From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013”, “Trump Becoming Macbeth: Will our democracy survive?”, “We Humans Overwhelm Our Earth: 11 or 2 Billion by 2100?”, “What Can Be Done Now to Save Habitable Life on Planet Earth?”, “Vote”, “Can Homo Sapiens Survive?”, “Will Choice and Democracy Win?”, “Can Our U.S. Survive 8 Plus Billion of Us”, “Economic Growth: A Cancer on all Earthly Life”, “On the Precipice of Political Disaster in 2024” and “Democracy at Red State Risk”.

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