Experts such as the United Kingdom’s Alan Turing Institute have long advocated the need for an impartial institution to monitor artificial intelligence projects and algorithms. The European Union has also recently proposed regulations.
This concern is so far-reaching that even the Church has decided to shed some light on it.
The call to Rome for AI ethics
Vatican officials have called for stricter ethical standards on the development of artificial intelligence. To this end, they presented the document Rome calls for AI Ethics.
This document sets out six general principles relating to the ethics of artificial intelligence: transparency, inclusiveness, accountability, impartiality, reliability and security and privacy.
These principles therefore emphasize that technology should "protect people", particularly the "weak and disadvantaged".
The Vatican wants to make sure that companies do not use AI as a means to collect data without the consent of individuals and then use that data for commercial or political gain. Pope Francis himself considers that "this asymmetry, by which a few know everything about us while we know nothing about them, undermines critical thinking and the conscious exercise of freedom".
That is why Vatican officials also urge policymakers around the world to create new forms of regulation on "advanced technologies that are at greater risk of affecting human rights", which is closely related to facial recognition technology.
The document also states that a "duty of explanation" must be established and that AI-based algorithms must provide people with information about how algorithms made their decisions to ensure that there are no biases, neither sexual, nor racial, or any other kind. For example, Paul Mason, author of Clear Bright Future: A Radical Defence of the Human Being, calls for an ethical use of algorithms, with an obligation to disclose them. "We must oppose anything that reduces our conscious control over our working environment, or our rational freedom of choice, or our freedom in general. And not driven by technophobia, but by the desire to improve machines, to improve and make algorithms more transparent, to increase our control".
For now, the document has already been endorsed by IBM and Microsoft, but progressively, Vatican officials expect to increase the number of supporters of their AI ethics initiative in the coming months. They also hope to collaborate with universities around the world to promote more scientific research on AI ethical guidelines, as they are considered a moral and ethical source for millions of believers who will also use or be monitored by these new technologies.
After all, in order for people to accept and use systems based on artificial intelligence, they need to be able to trust them and, furthermore, it is important that their autonomous AI decisions not only be legal, but also respect existing moral codes.