The Vatican has teamed up with Microsoft and IBM to promote the ethical development of artificial intelligence (AI) while also calling for the regulation of facial recognition and other intrusive technologies.
The tech giants signed the Vatican's “Rome Call for AI Ethics” pledge which asserts that technology should respect privacy, work reliably and do so without bias. It also says that AI technology should consider “the needs of all human beings” and operate transparently.
The document reflects growing concerns among businesses and institutions that restrictions need to be put in place as the use cases for AI continue to evolve. For example, law enforcement agencies have used facial recognition systems to investigate crimes while Fortune 500 companies have turned to AI to vet job applicants.
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Both of these cases illustrate high-stakes tasks where deploying an AI system with inaccurate or biased software could harm people instead of helping them.
Pope Francis also warned about the dangers of AI being used to extract data, often without the knowledge of individuals, for commercial and political ends, saying:
“This asymmetry, by which a select few know everything about us while we know nothing about them, dulls critical thought and the conscious exercise of freedom. Inequalities expand enormously; knowledge and wealth accumulate in a few hands with grave risks for democratic societies.”
While IBM and Microsoft have both signed the Vatican's document, it is still unclear as to whether other tech companies will get on board. At the same time, we also don't know how signatories will implement the principles laid out in the Vatican's pledge.
In addition to the new document, Vatican officials also said that they could potentially provide material for a possible papal document on AI.