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Our future in the age of AI

This Sunday, May 12 is the 58th World Day of Social Communications. The theme is Artificial Intelligence and the Wisdom of the Heart: Towards a Fully Human Communication. Pope Francis issued a message on January 24.

The full text is available on the Vatican website

Using AI, here are some of the main points.

Artificial intelligence is radically affecting communication, raising profound questions about humanity.

The message acknowledges that the rapid development of artificial intelligence (AI) systems is radically transforming the world of information and communication, impacting core aspects of life in society. These changes driven by astonishing AI innovations are exciting yet disorienting for most people who cannot fully grasp their workings or potential.

This inevitably leads to deeper existential questions about the nature of human beings, our distinctiveness as a species, and the future of humanity in this age of artificial intelligence. The key question posed is how we can remain fully human and guide this AI-driven cultural transformation towards serving a positive purpose.

We must start with the wisdom of the heart to confront the challenges of AI.

To properly interpret and respond to the newness brought about by AI, the message urges adopting a spiritual perspective and recovering the “wisdom of the heart.” This wisdom, seen as a virtue that enables integrating the whole and its parts, decisions, and consequences, individual and community, allows us to view reality with God’s eyes and uncover deeper meaning.

Unlike machines, only the human heart as the place of freedom, emotions, and encounter with God can provide this type of integrative wisdom needed to remain fully human amidst technological change.

AI presents both opportunities and dangers.

While recognising AI’s potential benefits like overcoming ignorance and enabling communication across languages and generations, the message highlights AI’s ambivalent nature. It warns that AI can also become a source of “cognitive pollution” by distorting reality through disinformation, deepfakes, and simulations that disrupt our relationships with others and the real world. Preventive ethical regulation is needed to forestall AI’s harmful, discriminatory, and socially unjust effects.

Regulation of AI is needed, but not sufficient – growth in humanity is required.

The message calls for a binding international treaty to regulate the development and use of AI but emphasises that regulation alone is insufficient. We are challenged to make a “qualitative leap” to become a more complex, pluralistic society.

Careful reflection on the theoretical foundations and practical applications of AI communication tools is needed to avoid reducing individuals to data, making AI development an abstract calculative exercise that denies human uniqueness and dissolves reality into statistics.

Key questions must be addressed regarding AI’s impact on communication and society.

Several critical questions are raised about safeguarding professionalism and worker dignity in communication fields, ensuring interoperability and transparency of platforms/algorithms, preventing monopolisation of information sources, distinguishing real vs simulated content, promoting pluralism over “single approach” narratives, ensuring AI sustainability and accessibility across the world. Addressing these issues will be key to shaping AI’s future impact.

Our response will determine whether AI leads to new forms of exploitation or greater equality and freedom.

The answers we provide to the raised questions will determine whether AI enables new forms of inequality, exploitation and a “new slavery” by concentrating control over information access/flows; or whether it expands equality and freedom through correct information access, pluralism, and participatory involvement in developing thought and knowledge. The future trajectory is not pre-determined but depends on the ethical choices humanity makes.


An extract from the message…

The use of artificial intelligence can make a positive contribution to the communications sector, provided it does not eliminate the role of journalism on the ground but serves to support it. Provided too that it values the professionalism of communication, making every communicator more aware of his or her responsibilities, and enables all people to be, as they should, discerning participants in the work of communication.