Pope Francis warns of ‘perverse’ AI dangers

Pope Francis issued a stark warning on Wednesday of the “perverse” dangers of artificial intelligence — even noting he was a victim.

“We need but 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), or of audio messages that use a person’s voice to say things which that person never said,” he wrote in a message commemorating World Communications Day.

“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,” he said.

A deepfake photo depicting the pontiff in a white puffer jacket went viral online last year as content generated by AI increased on social media.

In his message Wednesday, Francis pushed for more regulation on AI “to forestall harmful, discriminatory and socially unjust effects of the use of systems of artificial intelligence.” He also said questions remain over whether AI will create more equality in the world or lead to more inequality.

“The answers we give to these and other questions will determine if artificial intelligence will end up creating new castes based on access to information and thus giving rise to new forms of exploitation and inequality,” he said.

He also noted that while AI can be useful in some industries, it must not replace the work of journalists.

“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,” Francis said.