Pope Francis arrived shortly after noon at Borgo Egnazia, Apulia, with G7 host Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni welcoming him as he disembarked from the state helicopter.

PM Meloni called it a “historic day” as the first pontiff ever to participate in a G7 meeting spoke in the session on artificial intelligence. Leaders from invited countries such as Argentina, Brazil, and Kenya, representing the Global South, also took part in the discussion. 

Pope Francis commented on artificial intelligence in his opening remarks, calling it an “exciting and fearsome tool.” In a speech lasting approximately 20 minutes, the pontiff also spoke of the technology’s possible benefits. It could help “democratization of access to knowledge, the exponential advancement of scientific research and the possibility of giving demanding and arduous work to machines,” he said.

At the same time, he also warned of the dangers of AI. There could be “more injustice between advanced countries and developing countries, between dominant social classes and oppressed social classes.” 

Referring to humanity’s wider context, he highlighted humanity’s tendency to turn into “an enemy of itself and of the planet.”

The pope then reminded his listeners that, “To speak of technology is to speak of what it means to be human and thus of our singular status as beings who possess both freedom and responsibility.” He added, “This means speaking about ethics”

Pointing at their military use, the Pope condemned ” so-called ‘lethal autonomous weapons’.” He emphasized, “No machine should ever choose to take the life of a human being.”

Giorgia Meloni thanks Pope Francis on June 14. (©G7 Apulia Summit)

Wider Discussion on Artificial Intelligence

In the G7 Leaders’ Communique published in the evening, the participating countries spelled out a more concrete stance on AI. 

Just like the Pope, the leaders recognized the ambivalent role of AI as a force of good and evil. They encourage measuring best practices by “the development of a reporting framework for monitoring the International Code of Conduct for Organizations Developing Advanced AI Systems.”

The wording is a mouthful but suggests a better-defined way to monitor the actions of AI actors.  

AI and the Workforce

G7 leaders also mentioned AI in the world of work. Indeed, the document addresses “skills gaps” among countries around the globe. It encourages countries to work on closing those gaps, including through the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence’s Working Group on the Future of Work. 

Also addressing concerns of developing countries, the document includes the establishment of the AI Hub for Sustainable Development. This initiative will be carried out with the United Nations Development Program. 

G7, Pope Francis and outreach countries pose for the group picture on June 14. (©G7 Apulia Summit)

Good and Bad in a Disruptive Technology

Interestingly, among the risks the document examines are AI’s impacts on the military domain. It reiterates the need for a framework for responsible development and use. 

“We welcome those who have endorsed the Political Declaration on Responsible Military Use of AI and Autonomy (REAIM) and the REAIM Call to Action,” said the leaders. They went on to encourage more states to endorse the principles to ensure that military use of AI is responsible, complies with applicable international law, particularly international humanitarian law, and enhances international security.” 

Generative AI is gathering increasing attention as a technology with great potential for society. At the same time, it also has the capacity to disrupt democratic processes. 

In 2023, the G7 leaders agreed to launch the Hiroshima AI Process to establish rules on the responsible use of the technology. 


Author: Arielle Busetto

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