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Church body recommends restrictions on Artificial Intelligence

Source: The Tablet as of 29-07-2020

The report, written by a commission of EU Bishops, emphasised that AI should be subject to human needs, not vice versa.

Intelligent robots are displaying on the ground floor of Shanghai Expo Centre, Shanghai, China, 9 July 2020.
ChinaImages/SIPA USA/PA Images

A commission representing the European Union’s Catholic bishops has called on EU institutions to follow a “human-centric approach” on Artificial Intelligence, ensuring new information technologies “promote the common good and serve the lives of all human beings”.  AI is a strategic technology that offers many benefits for citizens and the economy – it will change our lives by improving healthcare, increasing the efficiency of farming, contributing to climate change mitigation and adaptation and improving the efficiency of production systems”, the COMECE report said. COMECE, a Brussels-based commission, represents the EU’s Catholic bishops inside and outwith Europe. 

“At the same time, AI entails a number of potential risks, such as gender-based or other kinds of discrimination, opaque decision-making or intrusion into our private lives…AI should work for people and be a force for good in society”. The report, published as part of an EU consultation, said the Catholic Church welcomed attempts to establish a “solid European approach” to AI, which would be “deeply grounded on human dignity and protection of privacy”, and cover child safety, data protection, cyber-security and money-laundering. It added that, while that data and algorithms were “main drivers of Artificial Intelligence“, human beings remained responsible for “determining and overviewing” its goals, which should be coordinated at EU level rather than left to national governments.

AI has to serve the lives of all human beings – human life has not only a personal dimension but also a community dimension”, the COMECE report said.  “The Christian perspective sees the human person as qualitatively different from other beings, with a transcendental dignity, intelligent and free, and therefore capable of moral acts. AI systems are not free in the sense the human person is and, in this sense, their actions cannot be judged according to the same moral criteria”.  In February, the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life published a “Rome Call for AI Ethics” after an international workshop chaired by its president, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia. The Pontifical Academy invited the leaders of Microsoft and IBM, two of the world’s leading developers of AI, to sign a charter calling for an ethical framework for the field of artificial intelligence.


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