Before dawn, Paolo Benanti climbed to the bell tower of his 16th-century monastery and admired the sunrise over the ruins of the Roman forum. He reflected on a world in flux. “It was a wonderful meditation on what is going on inside,” he said, stepping onto the street in his friar robe and contemplating the world outside too. As the Vatican’s and the Italian government’s artificial intelligence ethicist, he spends his days thinking about the Holy Ghost and the ghosts in the machines. In recent weeks, Father Benanti has had a lot going on. He has been involved in meetings with Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, presided over a commission seeking to save Italian media from Chat GBT bylines and general A.I. oblivion, and also met with Vatican officials to further Pope Francis’s aim of protecting the vulnerable from the coming technological storm. He has also shared his thoughts with Pope Francis. He is concerned about the ethical development and use of AI to prevent a world devoid of human mercy. He believes that global governance is needed to prevent social collapse. For a church and a country looking to harness, and survive, the coming A.I. revolution, his job is to provide advice from an ethical and spiritual perspective. Father Benanti is particularly concerned about masters of the A.I. universes developing systems that will expand chasms of inequality. He fears that entire professional fields will be left doing menial jobs, stripping people of dignity and unleashing floods of ‘despair.’ It raises enormous questions about redistributing wealth in an A.I. dominant universe. However, he also sees the potential of A.I. He is thinking hard about how A.I. can keep productivity afloat for Italy, which has one of the world’s most aged and shrinking populations. After meditating in the morning, Father Benanti walked to work, passing through Rome’s busiest streets. His office at the Gregorian is decorated with framed prints of his street photography and pictures of him shaking hands with Pope Francis. His religious vocation came after his scientific one. He was initially interested in engineering, but later he realized that something was missing. He then pursued a degree in engineering but later found an interest in human enhancement and cyborgs. After joining the Franciscan order, he got a job at the Gregorian and eventually became the Vatican’s IT ethics guy. Last month, Father Benanti participated in a meeting between Mr. Gates and Prime Minister Meloni, who is worried about A.I.’s impact on the work force. “She has to run a country,” he said. She has now appointed Father Benanti to replace the leader of the A.I. commission on Italian media with whom she was displeased. That commission is studying ways to protect Italy’s writers. Father Benanti believes that A.I. companies should be held liable for using copyrighted sources to train their chatbots. And even though Father Benanti finds the technology mysterious, he also once again imbues the technology with magic.
Vatican and Italy Look to Friar as A.I. Ethics Whisperer
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