Pope Francis Discusses Artificial Intelligence with Microsoft President

Pope Francis says Church hasn't known 'how to listen'
AFP Alberto PIZZOLI

Pope Francis met with Microsoft President Brad Smith in the Vatican Wednesday and discussed the topic of “artificial intelligence at the service of the common good,” according to a Vatican statement.

During the private audience between the pope and Mr. Smith, in which the President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia participated, the leaders also discussed “activities aimed at bridging the digital divide that still persists at the global level,” the Vatican added.

At the conclusion of the meeting, it was announced that Microsoft, together with the Pontifical Academy for Life, will launch “an international prize on ethics in artificial intelligence,” which will be the theme of the Academy’s 2020 plenary assembly.

In its upcoming 2019 plenary meeting, the Pontifical Academy will deal with the issue of “Roboethics: Humans, Machines and Health,” to be followed by the 2020 assembly on artificial intelligence.

On Wednesday morning, Mr. Smith delivered an address at Milan’s Polytechnic University titled, “Ambizione Italia: Artificial Intelligence and Digital Skills, looking into the future of work,” concerning the impact of new technological trends in the world of work and education.

Later in the day, Smith traveled to Rome where, along with meeting with the pope, he took part in a conference titled “Digital Democracy: The Protection of Citizens in the Era of Big Data,” organized by the Institute of International Affairs together with Microsoft.

A critic of the Trump Administration’s immigration policy, Smith has spoken out against efforts to stop the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, while Microsoft itself has pushed for the DACA as well while supporting immigration as a way to make sure U.S. companies are hiring talented people.

“We don’t want to move jobs out of the United States and we hope that we don’t see decision making in Washington that would force us to do that,” Smith said last July, while adding that Microsoft’s development center in Vancouver, Canada, is a “bit of a safety valve.”

Regarding artificial intelligence itself and its possible impact on the job market, Smith said in January that in places like Japan and South Korea with falling populations automation could help offset a shrinking labor force.

“Continuing economic prosperity will require productivity advances from technology to replace a declining supply of human workers,” Smith said.

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