Pope’s Interest on Endorsing Principles on AI Ethics; Microsoft and IBM Backed

On Friday, February 28, 2020, Vatican officials put forwards Pope Francis’ concerns on endorsing principles with respect to the ethical use of artificial intelligence (AI) in global business operations. The two technology giants, Microsoft Corp. (Microsoft) and International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) backed the Vatican’s concern and supported a global rule of using AI without compromising the respect of human beings.

Pope’s Concerns

A conference on “Rome Call for AI Ethics” was organized by the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life this week which focused on the application of human values in the development of AI technologies in business operations and Pope Francis was due to receive the document on Friday to conclude the conference. Special dignitaries including the European Parliament’s President, David Sassoli and Microsoft’s President, Brad Smith participated in the conference.

According to Reuters, “the document reflects the growing interest among companies and institutions to set guardrails for the fast-evolving technology.” In the conference, Vatican officials emphasized that AI technology should be used in a manner that it must not violate the rights of human beings and should respect privacy. The officials added that companies using the technology must ensure transparency and work towards “the needs of all human beings.”

According to John Kelly III, the executive vice president of IBM, the Vatican’s initiative was part of Pope Francis’ concerns about AI and its effect on society that announced more than a year ago. Kelly told Reuters in an interview, “His major concerns were, will it be available to everyone, or is it going to further bifurcate the haves and the have-nots?”

Microsoft and IBM Backed

IBM and Microsoft have extended supports to the Pope’s concern on AI ethics and claimed that they would turn down their business operations in the cases if customers find problematic the way these companies use the technology.

Reuters pointed out two examples that possed challenges of the use of technology in humanity. Police have started using the technology for facial recognition systems to investigate crimes and the majority of the Fortune 500 companies have used AI to assess job applicants which have high-stakes risks where inaccurate or biased software could lead to harm all.

IBM entered a partnership with the Bambino Gesu Children’s Hospital in Rome this week to implement the AI technology for healthcare research. The company officials stated the partnership would aim at developing technology for the diagnosis and treatment of brain tumor patients. Meanwhile, Kelly claimed that IBM even had no obvious answer about a third of the questions related to the ethical use of AI technology.

Meanwhile, it was not yet certain that other technology companies would sign the document proposed by Vatican officials and also unclear about how signatories would implement the principles. According to Kelly, “Going forward we’re going to see more falling in that category, only because the technology is advancing so fast.”

I’m Roshan, a journalist, blogger and music lover. I like covering global news related to finance, business, and technology. Focusing on the collection of true and reliable information, I rely on working by conducting interviews with business leaders and talking to the inside sources of companies.

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