Although open to the tech developments unfolding, Pope Francis has warned against the “pervasive” dangers of AI and its potential to imprison people in ideological chambers.
The Pope himself has been a victim of generative AI deepfakes and has renewed his calls for global collaboration towards regulating the sector. This, he said, will help the world leverage the technology for the good of humanity.
The Pope speaks from experience
Speaking during the Roman Catholic Church’s World Day of Social Communications, which will be marked around the world on May 12, the Pope spoke about his hopes and fears about AI technology.
The Pope’s three-page address spoke of the dangers of promoting false narratives through generative AI and “imprisoning people in ideological chambers.”
In March last year, the Pontiff was deepfaked, and an image of him in a stylish white puffer jacket went viral across the globe. AI-powered tools like Midjourney have just surfaced, allowing users to generate images from text prompts.
“We need to think of the long-standing problem of disinformation in the form of fake news, which today can employ ‘deepfakes’, namely the creation and diffusion of images that appear perfectly plausible but false—I too have been an object of this,” wrote the Pope.
He also spoke of “fake audio messages that use a person’s voice to say things that person never said.”
A distortion of reality
High-profile individuals have fallen victim to generative AI, with deepfake images, audios, and videos of their AI versions going viral. The prevalence of this trend increased as generative AI gained traction following the success of ChatGPT, which was launched in November 2022.
Recently, robocalls featuring an AI-generated voice of President Joe Biden surfaced, dissuading voters in New Hampshire to boycott the Tuesday primary election. The voice told potential voters that participating in the Tuesday election would only aid in the re-election of former President Donald Trump.
Several celebrities like Tom Hanks, Taylor Swift, and Russell Crowe had their likeness used in some fake AI commercials, deceiving their fans.
The Pope deplored this practice, which he said was the perverse side of AI.
“The technology of simulation behind these programmes can be useful in certain specific fields, but it becomes perverse when it distorts our relationship with others and with reality,” the pope wrote.
The Catholic head also highlighted the dangers of this technology in distorting reality in the media and could be detrimental in war situations. He added that AI should be an instrument that enhances journalism and does not perpetuate disinformation.
Renewed calls for regulation
Although the Pope has acknowledged the technology could be used for the good of humanity, the Wednesday message saw him renew his calls for worldwide regulation of the technology with a legally binding international treaty.
He urged the world “to work together in order to adopt a binding international treaty that regulates the development and use of artificial intelligence in its many forms.”
The rise of AI has also ignited debates around ethical concerns, despite the technology’s transformative abilities. World leaders are working towards creating regulations that promote innovation and encourage responsible development and deployment.
In light of this, the Pope added that AI technology was just a mere “extension of humanity that could be used for good or bad purposes depending on our decisions.”