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Generative Artificial Intelligence & The Technocratic Paradigm

How to promote the wellbeing of humanity, care for nature and a world of peace

The upcoming 2024 CAPP Conference in Rome will be an important gathering of Foundation chapters and members worldwide.

It will also feature an extended consideration of the emergence of a cluster of applied algorithms and technological tools broadly called A.I. or "Artificial Intelligence".

A.I. in its rudiments is largely a compound of brute force computation, Bayesian statistics, and applied programming designed to obtain better-fit results to a task via what is called Machine Learning.

Many of the tasks enhanced by A.I. are already automated, and the dividend is more accurate, efficient and consistent outputs.

In other cases, A.I. can emulate the interactions between persons by allowing a questioning human to query databases of existing information, using natural, everyday language.

With complex, non-standard and original tasks, A.I. tools still struggle. But across a wide range of sophisticated actions where the basis is regular, widely comparable example, the power of A.I. is now unmistakable.

There is understandably great expectation around the possible benefits.

For instance, in identifying salient patterns amidst items the vast holdings of the Vatican Library, or Museum, A.I. tools are potentially of great value and service.

One Catholic application of note in these early days is Magisterium, which uses a chat interface to answer questions about the Catechism, the Church's Teaching, etc.

The ethical impacts upon work are already, and may become more, manifold and dramatic.

Because the sources of A.I. outputs are typically not attributed, there are both obscurations of evidence & reasoning, and infringements of proprietary and intellectual work.

Moreover, looking at many of the jobs broadly impacted, the impact of A.I. may be economically regressive, affecting those with less earning opportunity most.

The challenges posed by the growth of A.I.-enhanced applications also include problems of right understanding, and prudent use.

There are several significant challenges relevant to Catholic Social Teaching -

First and most simply relative to the Common Good, what is labelled Artificial Intelligence can amount effectively to Artificial Stupidity - judgements, actions and arrangements that would not result from merely mechanical or natural factors, let alone sound human judgement.

This is not a hollow concern, as people can turn to A.I.-driven chats as one would to an oracle.

A second concern touches on Anthropology in light of the Faith: it is not at all clear even to casual understanding that the machine learning by which A.I. operates can be compared to human thinking in the true sense. And certainly man as a rational animal created by God is essentially different from any "thinking machine"

Confusion among these categories can be immensely harmful.

Thirdly, relative to the well being of workers, families, and the community, and to the dignity of work, A.I. has the potential to reshape, disrupt, and in many cases eliminate jobs and careers. This is especially true in economies organized around the principles of efficiency and commodity pricing.

Thus the impact of new technology is a matter not only for the Church and for spiritual leaders, but for those responsible for the temporal weal of the Community.

One of CAPP-Canada's team members who has looked in depth into the ramifications of the promulgation of A.I. is is Canadian theologian Prof. Cory Andrew Labrecque, of the University of Laval. He is also a member of "The AI Research Group," a group of North American theologians, philosophers, and ethicists who have come together at the invitation of the Vatican Centre for Digital Culture, under the auspices of the Dicastery for Culture and Education of the Holy See, to discuss the current and future issues that the continued development of artificial intelligence poses for life and society as we know it. Those who are interested, can consult the book published by this group last year entitled ENCOUNTERING ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: ETHICAL AND ANTHROPOLOGICAL INVESTIGATIONS.

Photo from the book cover of "Encountering Artificial Intelligence: Ethical and Anthropological Investigations," AI Research Group for the Centre for Digital Culture of the Dicastery for Culture and Education of the Holy See, Edited by Matthew J. Gaudet Noreen Herzfeld Paul Scherz Jordan J. Wales


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