Pope Francis at the G7 in Puglia: Algorethics Comes to Centre of International Debate

Politics - May 29, 2024

It was with words full of gratitude that the Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, announced on 26 April that Pope Francis would be attending the G7 meeting in the session dedicated to artificial intelligence. This is an extraordinary event. In fact, never before this appointment – that will be held in Puglia, in Borgo Egnazia, from 13 to 15 June – had a Holy Father taken part at such a meeting among the great of the Earth. Bergoglio’s intervention will take place at the G7 outreach, the sessions that are also open to the invited countries and not only to the members of Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

A hot topic, that of artificial intelligence, which – as the Prime Minister specified in a long speech – can represent a great opportunity but can also reserve pitfalls if not managed with conscience and awareness. Pope Francis will echo a message that the Holy See has been carrying forward for several years, namely that of algoreticism. A term that intends to clarify how ethics must be inherent in the algorithm from the earliest stages of design, and how the centrality of the international discourse must be covered solely and exclusively by the human factor.


Cisco System signs the ‘Rome Call for AI Ethics’

In 2020, the Pontifical Academy for Life and the RenAIssance Foundation launched the ‘Rome Call for AI Ethics’, a veritable pact for global ethics concerning new technologies. Public and private entities were and are asked to sign up in order to certify an ethical approach to AI. On 23 April last, in this regard, came the signature – following the illustrious ones of IBM and Microsoft in previous years – by the Cisco System, represented by CEO Chuck Robbins, who emphasised how artificial intelligence is radically changing our world and, at the same time, presenting vast opportunities, but also new challenges. For nearly 40 years, Cisco has been building networks that connect people and organisations around the world, and now, as its CEO stated, it is focusing on building the critical infrastructure and security solutions that will power the artificial intelligence revolution.

On the principles of the Rome Call, Robbins believes they are in line with Cisco’s core belief that technology must be built on a foundation of trust at the highest level to fuel an inclusive future for all. Representatives of other faiths, such as Jews and Muslims, and what is now the Department of Digital Transformation, have also endorsed the document.


The document

On February 28 of 2020, the Pontifical Academy for Life organised the conference ‘RenAIssance. For a human-centred artificial intelligence’, which culminated in the signing of the ‘Rome Call for AI Ethics’. The document, as already mentioned, assumes that new technologies are to be understood as tools that can perform peculiar tasks quickly and with great care. It also considers how artificial intelligence has changed everyday life and all those actions performed routinely.


Giorgia Meloni: ‘The Italian G7 Presidency intends to enhance this path promoted by the Holy See’.

Giorgia Meloni, on the announcement of the Holy Father’s presence at the G7 in Borgo Egnazia, remarked that the June G7 meeting will address what many believe to be the greatest anthropological challenge of this era, namely the advent of artificial intelligence.

For the Italian Prime Minister, this is a technology that can generate great opportunities but that also harbours enormous risks, inevitably affecting global balances. Therefore, the PM went on to explain that all the players involved in the G7 (including the guests at the session) will have to commit themselves to new governance mechanisms, in order to design an artificial intelligence that always places the person at the centre of the discourse.

A point that cannot be ignored. The human factor therefore remains the fulcrum, the one around which we must build. Furthermore, Meloni made it clear that no action, whether preventive or massive, can be carried out by a single individual, but that cooperation and a synergy of intent is necessary to achieve the goal.

In this sense, citing the ‘Rome call for AI ethics’, she dwelt on the path developed by the Holy See to give concrete application to the concept of algorethics, i.e. applying ethics to algorithms. She went on to say that the Italian G7 Presidency’s aim is to turn the spotlight on the path initiated by the Holy See and to ensure that it reaches as far as possible beyond the borders; that is, that all the political leaders involved in the session can have very clear access to what the document expresses. The presence of Pope Francis, therefore, reinforces the message that wants to be conveyed and, above all, it also allows for an open and important debate that could lead to renewed cooperation on the subject.


‘At the G7 in Puglia Pope Francis will take part in an outreach session’

Meloni also explained that this is a record, a historic intervention as it is the first time that the presence of a Pontiff at the G7 works is recorded. It is an important challenge that, as she has repeatedly stressed, can indeed enable the production of an ‘ethical and cultural regulatory framework for artificial intelligence.’

Finally, once again a warning on the centrality of the human factor in every sphere of action. The President made use of a quote from St John Paul II who, in a famous speech to the United Nations, shared: ‘Political activity, national and international, comes from man, is exercised through man and is for man.’


Artificial Intelligence at the European elections in June

This brings us to the forthcoming European elections. In fact, a few days before the Borgo Egnazia event, European citizens will go to the polls (8-9 June for Italians). The two things, although seemingly unrelated, are close and not only in terms of time, being as one of the big topics addressed by politicians is precisely that of new technologies, especially artificial intelligence.

In this regard, within the programme proposed by Fratelli d’Italia – the party led by Giorgia Meloni – for the upcoming elections, in point fourteen, there is an in-depth analysis related to IA. FdI has several objectives to achieve at national and European level. Firstly, as the Prime Minister himself has already specified, there is the regulation related to the impact that this type of technology can have on human beings, leading to their marginalisation. Therefore, to prevent this from happening, the party proposes the creation of a European control room with the task of ‘governing the political and social changes brought about by the advent of AI’, clearly in order to investigate the risk factors and to prevent jobs and fundamental human rights from being compromised.

Furthermore, FdI intends to allocate funds so that a ‘common research and development pole for AI technologies’ can be set up. It should also be added that in order to generate greater awareness it would be necessary, again according to Meloni’s party, to ‘implement digital literacy campaigns for citizens’, to work massively to offer maximum support to companies that deal with the development, research and implementation of AI. Finally, as we read in the dedicated point, it would be necessary to update the ‘instruments for the protection of intellectual property and copyright’ so that they are adapted to the transformations taking place, obviously linked to ‘digital progress’.