Pope Francis urges ‘ethically’ responsible use of AI after altered image goes viral

Daily Caller News Foundation

Pope Francis urged technology leaders Monday to find “ethically sound” ways to use artificial intelligence after an altered photo of him went viral over the weekend, according to Vatican News.

Prior to Francis’ meeting, an AI-generated photo was published online showing him in a puffer coat and wearing a jeweled crucifix went viral leaving many on social media confused about the image’s authenticity, according to the National Catholic Register. During the event at the Vatican, the pope encouraged the ethical use of AI and technology, saying that while technology is “immensely beneficial” it must also be used “ethically and responsibly,” according to Vatican News.

“I encourage you, in your deliberations, to make the intrinsic dignity of every man and every woman the key criterion in evaluating emerging technologies,” Francis said, according to the National Catholic Register. “These will prove ethically sound to the extent that they help respect that dignity and increase its expression at every level of human life.”

The pope also raised concerns about digital technology increasing inequality, saying that tech companies should be held “accountable,” according to Vatican News.

“Are our national and international institutions able to hold technology companies accountable for the social and cultural impact of their products,” Francis said. “Is there a risk that increased inequality could undermine our sense of human and social solidarity? Could we lose our sense of having a shared destiny?”

The pope’s comments came after an AI image of Francis was originally posted on Reddit and later gained thousands of views and likes on Twitter, showing the head of the Catholic Church in a white puffer coat and a jeweled crucifix, while holding a coffee mug.

Many on social media were initially fooled by the photos, which were later determined to be fake, sparking conversations about the dangers of AI being used to fake someone’s identity, according to New Scientist. Francis’ recent remarks were not his first comments on the potential risks of rapidly changing and evolving technology, as he said in 2020 that Catholics should pray that AI and technology stay under human control, according to the Catholic News Agency.

Despite his concerns, the pope indicated on Monday that he has a hopeful outlook on the future of technology and warned against dismissing its potential uses.

“From this perspective,” Francis said, “I am convinced that the development of artificial intelligence and machine learning has the potential to contribute in a positive way to the future of humanity; we cannot dismiss it.”

The Vatican did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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