Theologians, ethicists, and experts from the tech world gathered for the Vatican's 3-day conference "The Common Good in the Digital Age," held in the Aula of the Jesuit Curia in Rome during the last week of September. Executive Director Don Heider was thrilled to have the opportunity of a lifetime meeting Pope Francis when the Pope spoke to the conference attendees. The Center’s Director of Technology Ethics Brian Green also met the Pope, and was a keynote speaker, presenting on the Ethics Center's “Framework for Ethical Thinking” and “Ethics in Technology Practice."
Following are Green's reflections on the event, in the context of artificial intelligence.
For several years, the Vatican has been sponsoring meetings about the ethical development and use of technology, and in particular Artificial Intelligence (AI). I recently participated in two of these meetings, including “The Common Good in the Digital Age” conference, where Pope Francis spoke on these issues. These are four key points I came away with:
- The Pope is very interested in technology issues. He took the time to speak with the conference participants, and his address was extremely well-balanced, considering both the benefits and risks of new technologies. This demonstrates to me his personal and strong support for developing technology in the service of humanity.
- The moral voice of the Church can actually be something that secular audiences are interested in hearing. Moral authority is real. And when it comes to ethical issues about emerging technologies, the Church’s resources can actually be refreshingly useful for dealing with newer topics in these areas, such as AI and biotech.
- The Church’s convening power is terrific for bringing together broad sectors of society that otherwise might not intersect. The conference drew participants from across the globe, and I met a diverse group ranging from diplomats, to leaders of NGO's, to business and labor leaders. Convening diverse voices will be crucial for making sure that technology, and particularly AI, serves humanity well.
- Meetings like these are going to become more important. We are living in a world of incredible change, where one primary motivator is greed. However, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the pure pursuit of financial gain is not making the world a better place. If we want to improve the world, we need to collectively stop prioritizing greed and instead put human dignity and the common good first.