WelCom August 2023
Catholic universities must not recoil from the daunting risks of artificial intelligence but become proactively involved in its ethical development, says the head of the Vatican Dicastery for Culture and Education.
Catholic universities are obligated ‘to a delicate exercise of responsibility’ in the ‘new historical era’ represented by AI, said Cardinal José Tolentino de Mendonça, prefect of the dicastery. ‘Universities and, even more so, universities that share the Church’s mission, stand at a crossroads of cultural, scientific and social possibilities.’
Catholic universities must…establish themselves as great laboratories of the future.
Quoting Pope Francis, he said, ‘mere training in the correct use of new technologies will not prove sufficient’ and that ‘it is not enough to simply trust in the moral sense of researchers and developers of devices and algorithms,’ signalling the need to develop ‘algor-ethics’.
The cardinal spoke at the opening of a two-day conference in July titled The Future of Catholic Universities in the AI Age, organised by the Strategic Alliance of Catholic Research Universities (SACRU), hosted by The Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan.
‘Catholic universities must indeed dialogue with the new, work unsparingly on current questions and issues, and establish themselves as great laboratories of the future,’ he said, since they are ‘expected not only to actively guard the noble memory of past days, but also to be the probes, and the cradles, of tomorrow’.
With an eye on the risks posed by widespread and unregulated artificial intelligence use, Cardinal Tolentino’s dicastery has worked to bring tech-industry leaders to the Vatican to discuss the ethical development of AI. In January, Pope Francis met with AI pioneers from companies such as Microsoft and IBM and urged them to ensure AI use does not propagate discriminatory practices.
SACRU is a network of eight Catholic Universities from five continents and coordinated by Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore. They are the Australian Catholic University, Boston College, Universitat Ramon Llull, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro, Sophia University, Universidade Catolica Portuguesa and Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore. The eight universities are cooperating to promote global education for the Common Good and excellent interdisciplinary research.
Sources: OSV News; Vatican News