As algorithms and automation continue their rapid, inexorable expanse into nearly every facet of our daily lives, it's easy to spiral in our worries about a future at the hands of malevolent robotic overlords. Often, it seems like there isn't a whole lot else we can do aside from turning off Siri or Alexa (and good luck with that), or getting down on our knees to pray for the best.
Turns out, we lowly laypersons aren't alone in these fears, either. For part of his monthly prayer intentions — the Vatican's series of suggested meditations — Pope Francis dedicated November to emerging AI technologies. "We pray that the progress of robotics and artificial intelligence may always serve humankind," reads the brief description. Amen to that, Padre.
Understanding AI's true importance — "Artificial intelligence is at the heart of the epochal change we are experiencing," Pope Francis explains while accompanied by some sweet, stock "future tech" footage in a recent YouTube upload, "...if technological progress increases inequalities, it is not true progress." The Pontifex Maximus also emphasized that advancements in AI must always respect humans' inherent dignity, and that we should all pray for the breakthroughs to "serve humankind, [or] we could say, may it 'be human.'"
A Papal history of concern — This isn't the first time Pope Francis expressed his and the Holy See's concerns regarding the development and implementation of advances in artificial intelligence. Earlier this year, he addressed the Pontifical Academy for Life in February on the matter during a sponsored conference in Rome entitled, "Robo-ethics: Humans, Machines and Health." There, Francis recognized the "blurring boundaries that hitherto were considered clearly distinguishable: for example, between inorganic and organic matter, between the real and the virtual, between stable identities and events in constant interconnection."
Regardless of one's opinion on the Catholic Church, or even faith in general, it's still pretty mind-blowing to hear the leader of one of the world's major religions theorize on the consequences of artificial intelligence. While Pope Francis doesn't sound like he's particularly troubled right now at the thought of a robot uprising (but, really, he totally should be), his commitment to reminding us of the very real class ramifications that come from tech inequalities is always worth remembering. Hell, the Pope is already going about all this a helluva lot better than our own government, that's for sure.