Pope Francis holds weekly general audience
US leads AI regulation push as states grapple with mixed results; Pope Francis highlights global AI oversight at G7. Reuters

Pope Francis is set to become the first pontiff to speak at a G7 event, sounding the alarm about artificial intelligence (AI). He is set to emphasise the importance of instilling compassion, mercy, and ethical considerations into AI development to avoid creating technology devoid of these crucial human values.

It can be recalled that Pope Francis became a victim of a deepfake photo last year, showing him in a white puffer jacket. The photo went viral.

However, his concerns about AI extend far beyond the unflattering image as AI is also the central focus at the Group of Seven summit. Having personally experienced the power of AI technology in 2023, he has joined calls for an international treaty on AI regulation. He is also raising important concerns about the development of AI.

Pope Francis is scheduled to deliver a speech today, Friday, June 14, at the G7 summit in southern Italy. This marks the first time a pope has addressed the G7 leaders. His focus will be on advocating for stricter regulations on AI, particularly in light of the recent advancements in generative AI exemplified by OpenAI's ChatGPT chatbot.

Pope To Attend G7 To Discuss AI

Anticipating the amplifying effect of his celebrity and moral compass, Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni invited the Pope to participate, strategically linking a widely held concern about AI with his own focus on peace and social justice.

John Kirton, a political scientist at the University of Toronto and director of the G7 Research Group think tank, noted: "The pope is, well, a very special kind of a celebrity."

Kirton pointed to the 2005 Gleneagles meeting in Scotland, recalling a summit where the Pope's "star power" made profound impact. According to a report by The Independent, members agreed to cancel $40 billion in debt owed by 18 of the world's poorest countries to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

This landmark decision was preceded by the Live8 concert in London, a massive show of solidarity against hunger and poverty in Africa. Featuring iconic artists like Sting, The Who, and a reformed Pink Floyd, the concert drew over a million people.

"Gleneagles actually hit a home run and for some it's one of the most successful summits," Kirton said. Unlike the Gleneagles summit, where public pressure fueled action, Pope Francis will rely solely on his moral authority in Puglia. There, he'll reiterate his call for safeguards on AI and emphasise the dangers it poses to peace and societal well-being.

While generative AI has captivated the world with its human-like response capabilities, it has also ignited safety concerns, prompting a flurry of international efforts to establish control. As a result, fear catastrophic, long-term risks like bioweapons or weaponised disinformation.

Others worry about its immediate impact on daily life, including algorithmic bias leading to discrimination and job displacement through automation. This urgency is reflected by Demis Hassabis, chief of Google DeepMind, who compared AI risk to the climate crisis, last year.

In his Gleneagles peace message , the Pope echoed the above mentioned concerns and raised additional ones. He emphasised that AI must guarantee fundamental human rights, promote peace, and guard against disinformation, discrimination, and distortion.

Global Push for Stronger AI Guardrails

Regarding regulation, Pope Francis will address an already receptive audience, as the G7 members have been at the forefront of the discussion on AI oversight. Pope Francis is scheduled for a busy day of diplomatic talks following his speech on Artificial Intelligence at the G7 Summit.

His itinerary includes meetings with world leaders, including Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy; leaders from Algeria, Brazil, India, Kenya, and Turkey; G7 members, including US President Joe Biden, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Poised to be a global model, the EU's groundbreaking AI Act regulates AI products and services based on their potential risks.

Similarly, US President Joe Biden issued an executive order on AI safeguards and called for legislation to enhance these measures. Meanwhile, states like California and Colorado have attempted to pass their AI bills with mixed success.