Friday 27 September 2019 11:55 am

Ex-communication: Pope warns Silicon Valley against 'barbarous' AI

Monks worried about losing their jobs to robots got a new champion today as the pope urged tech giants to ensure they do not lead the world into a new “form of barbarism” when developing artificial intelligence.

Francis called for “open and concrete” discussions on the future of technology.

Read more: Two thirds of adults fear AI will take jobs

“If mankind’s so-called technological progress were to become an enemy of the common good, this would lead to an unfortunate regression to a form of barbarism dictated by the law of the strongest,” he said.

The address at a Vatican conference was heard by executives from Facebook and Mozilla, as well as government regulators, venture capitalists, and entrepreneurs.

“The remarkable developments in the field of technology, in particular those dealing with artificial intelligence, raise increasingly significant implications in all areas of human activity. For this reason, open and concrete discussions on this theme are needed now more than ever,” Francis said.

Concerns have grown in recent years that robots will be able to take over both blue and white-collar jobs as technology gets ever more sophisticated.

Some in the Church have called on the Vatican to embrace change, and even adopt the new technology.

Ilia Delio, a Franciscan nun who works at Villanova University, has said Catholics may have to face up to robopriests.

“We have these fixed philosophical ideas and AI challenges those ideas — it challenges Catholicism to move toward a post-human priesthood,” she told Vox news earlier this month.

Read more: Artificial intelligence could lead to huge rewards, but we must break down the barriers to AI adoption

Developers have already started experimenting with the idea. In Germany a robot called BlessU-2 has delivered blessings to over 10,000 people. The robot is Protestant.

The Vatican has said it might write a papal document on artificial intelligence based on the findings during the conference.