The Friar Who Became Vatican’s Go-To Person on AI | World News

Feb 10, 2024



Rome: Before dawn, Father Paolo Benanti climbed the belfry of his 16th-century monastery, admiring the sunrise over the ruins of the Roman forum and reflecting on the world in flux. Benanti has a lot going for him, as both Vaticanand well-known Italian government artificial intelligence The Puritan spends his days wondering about the Holy Spirit and ghosts in machines.
In recent weeks, ethics professorThe ordained priest and self-proclaimed geek accompanied Bill Gates to a meeting with Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, chaired a commission to save Italian media from ChatGPAT bylines and general AI oblivion, and reached out to Vatican officials to move forward. Met with. Pope Francis'Its aim is to protect vulnerable people from the coming technological storm. At a conference organized by the Ancient Knights of Malta, he told a crowd of ambassadors that “global governance is needed, otherwise the risk is societal collapse,” and he called for Rome – a collaboration of the Vatican, the Italian government, Silicon Valley and the United Nations. He helped organize to protect a brave new world in which such chatbots exist.
Benanti, 50, the author of several books (Homo Faber: The Techno-Human Condition) and a renowned speaker on international AI panels, is professor at Harvard, Gregorian, and the Pontifical Universities of Rome, where he teaches moral theology, ethics and theology. The course is called 'The Fall of Babel: The Challenges of Digital, Social Networks and AI'.
His job is to provide advice from a moral and spiritual perspective for a church and a country that wants to harness and survive the coming AI revolution. He shares his insights with Francis, who called for a global treaty to ensure the ethical development and use of AI in his annual World Peace Day message on January 1.
Benanti does not believe in the ability of the industry to self-regulate and thinks some rules of the road are needed in a world where deepfakes and disinformation can destroy democracy. They worry that the masters of the AI ​​universe are developing systems that will widen the inequality gap. They fear that AI transformation will be so sudden that entire professional sectors will be left doing menial jobs or doing nothing at all, people will be stripped of their dignity, and there will be a flood of “despair.”
He also sees the potential of AI. For Italy, which has one of the world's most aging and declining populations, Benanti is thinking hard about how AI can maintain productivity.
Last month, Benanti, who said he receives no payment from Microsoft, attended a meeting between Gates and Maloney, the company's co-founder, who is concerned about the impact of AI on the workforce. “He has to run the country,” he said. She has now replaced Benanti as leader of the AI ​​Commission on Italian Media, with whom she was unhappy. “Obedience to authority is one of the vows,” Benanti said, as he tied knots on the corded belt of his robe, marking his Franciscan order's promises of obedience, poverty and chastity.
That commission is studying ways to protect Italian writers. Benanti says AI firms should be held liable for using copyrighted sources to train chatbots, though he worries this is difficult to prove because the companies are “black boxes.”



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