The Vatican

Artificial Intelligence, key to freedom in communication

Pope Francis focuses his message for World Communications Day 2024 on the negative impact of Artificial Intelligence in the information sphere.

Paloma López Campos-January 24, 2024-Reading time: 3 minutes

(Unsplash / Maxim Hopman)

In its message For World Communications Day, Pope Francis analyzes the impact of Artificial Intelligence on the world of communication. Given the speed at which scientific and technological advances are progressing, man is facing, in a new light, the "fundamental questions". What is man and how does his future shape up with Artificial Intelligence?

The Pope warns that, in the face of these questions, "catastrophic readings" and "their paralyzing effects" must be avoided. Quoting Romano Guardini, he advises that the problems of this technological era should be solved "by approaching them from the human point of view". However, for this to happen, "a new humanity of profound spirituality, of a new freedom and a new interior life" must emerge.

Wisdom of the heart

This new humanity "can only start from the human heart". Francis encourages us to cultivate "a wisdom of the heart". This will allow us to "read and interpret the newness of our time and rediscover the path of a fully human communication".

The Holy Father defines the heart "as the seat of freedom and of the most important decisions in life". Based on the Bible, the Pope says that the heart "is a symbol of integrity, of unity". And "at the same time it evokes affections, desires, dreams". But "it is above all the interior place of the encounter with God".

In this way, the Pontiff clarifies that when he speaks of "wisdom of the heart" he is referring to "that virtue that allows us to interweave the whole and the parts, the decisions and their consequences, the capacities and the frailties, the past and the future, the I and the we".

Francis affirms that when this virtue is lacking "existence becomes insipid". Wisdom of heart "is a gift of the Holy Spirit, which allows us to see things with the eyes of God". However, the Pope stresses, it is not something we can expect from machines.

Artificial Intelligence and delusions of omnipotence

Despite the capacity of machines and the progress they bring to the scientific race, only man can "decipher the meaning" of the data that machines store. "It is not a question, then, of demanding that machines appear human; but rather of awakening man from the hypnosis into which he has fallen due to his delusion of omnipotence."

Man contaminates progress with "the original temptation to become like God without God. Science, in this way, pretends to "conquer by its own strength what should be accepted as a gift from God and lived in relationship with others".

The Holy Father warns that "every technical extension of man can be an instrument of loving service or hostile domination". He therefore asks everyone to "understand, comprehend and regulate tools that in the wrong hands could open up adverse scenarios". The Pope encourages to "act preventively, proposing models of ethical regulation to curb the harmful and discriminatory, socially unjust implications of Artificial Intelligence systems".

Information in the age of Artificial Intelligence

The Pontiff says that we are faced with the challenge of "making a qualitative leap in order to live up to a complex, multi-ethnic, pluralistic, multi-religious and multicultural society". He warns that the "great possibilities for good go hand in hand with the risk of everything being transformed into an abstract calculation that reduces people to mere data".

The Pope's message stresses that "it is unacceptable that the use of Artificial Intelligence should lead to anonymous thinking, to an assembly of uncertified data, to a collective negligence of editorial responsibility". Pope Francis stresses the idea that "information cannot be separated from the existential relationship". He explains that Artificial Intelligence will only have a positive role in communication "if it does not cancel out the role of journalism on the ground, but, on the contrary, supports it." To this end, it is essential to make the communicator responsible and that its use returns "to each human being the role of subject, with critical capacity, with respect to communication itself".

Because of Artificial Intelligence, says the Pope, over the world of communication "on the one hand, looms the specter of a new slavery. On the other, a conquest of freedom". The resolution of this situation "is not written, it depends on us". For this reason, Francis concludes his message by affirming that "it is up to man to decide whether to become the food of algorithms or instead to nourish his heart with freedom".

This reflection of the Holy Father on Artificial Intelligence comes after several interventions in which he has already spoken on the subject. The Pope has devoted more than one occasion to delve into this new technological era. Without going any further, the World Day of Peace 2024 dedicated it to her, less than a month ago.

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