In a speech delivered to members of the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science, Pope Francis warned about the ethical limits of developing artificial intelligence, particularly in relation to the so-called transhumanist project. The announcement of the soon-to-be-released “hybrid thought,” resulting from the hybridization of biological and non-biological thinking, which would allow humans not to be supplanted by AI, raises questions of great importance, both ethically and socially, according to the statement released by the Vatican’s press office.
“The fusion between human cognitive ability and machine computing power would substantially alter the homo sapiens species,” the Pope warned. He acknowledged that those who recognize themselves in the transhumanist project are not worried about this, but it is a cause for concern for those committed to advancing the neo-humanist project, where the gap between action and intelligence cannot be accepted.
According to the Pope, some advances in AI put intentionality, or the ethics of action, at risk. He also warned against the temptation to assess scientific advancements in “purely functional terms, as if everything that is possible is therefore ethically licit.” He stressed that the Church could never accept such a position, of which we have already had many tragic consequences.
On the same day, the Vatican presented the results of the Pontifical Academy for Life’s XXVIII General Assembly, which took place from February 20 to 22, 2023, on the theme “Converging on the Person: Emerging Technologies for the Common Good.” In a press conference, D. Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Academy, recalled the “Appeal of Rome,” signed in February 2020, calling for ethics in the world of algorithms.
“For the first time in history, man can destroy himself: first with nuclear energy, then with the ecological crisis, and finally with new technologies. It is an issue that involves both creation and the human family and the whole planet,” warned the Italian archbishop, for whom “the human is at stake here, in its radicality.”
The topic was also addressed last week by Portuguese Cardinal D. José Tolentino Mendonça, prefect of the Dicastery for Culture and Education, when he inaugurated the 2022/23 academic year at the Rome headquarters of the Catholic University. The Pope’s collaborator argued that artificial intelligence “will never replace human science, which cannot exist without love.”
Meanwhile, in The Hague, the Holy See intervened in a summit on “Responsible Artificial Intelligence in the Military Field.” Francesca Di Giovanni, undersecretary for the multilateral sector of the Section for Relations with States and International Organizations, head of the Holy See’s delegation, stressed that “efforts to make use of AI in the military sector must be accompanied by an even greater effort to empower our hearts and minds to avoid conflicts.”