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Pope urges ban on ‘lethal autonomous weapons’

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Pope Francis made history on Friday by becoming the first pope to address the Group of Seven summit.

He called for a ban on “lethal autonomous weapons” during his speech on the dangers of artificial intelligence.

Speaking at the luxury Borgo Egnazia resort in Puglia, southern Italy, Francis stressed the need to control the development and use of such weapons.

“In light of the tragedy that is armed conflict, it is urgent to reconsider the development and use of devices like the so-called ‘lethal autonomous weapons’ and ultimately ban their use,” the 87-year-old pontiff said.

He emphasized that machines should never have the power to take a human life. “This starts from an effective and concrete commitment to introduce ever greater and proper human control. No machine should ever choose to take the life of a human being,” he told the G7 leaders.

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Pope Francis was invited to the summit by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. He has often criticized the arms industry and those who profit from war and death.

The G7 summit, which includes leaders from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States, discussed the impact of AI on modern warfare. AI’s potential to speed up decision-making in conflicts, including nuclear scenarios, raises ethical and legal concerns.

“Artificial intelligence (is) at the same time an exciting and fearsome tool,” Francis told the assembled leaders. He warned that relying on AI for critical decisions could strip humanity of hope and autonomy. “We would condemn humanity to a future without hope if we took away people’s ability to make decisions about themselves and their lives, by dooming them to depend on the choices of machines,” he said.

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The G7 leaders acknowledged AI’s importance in their draft statement, saying, “AI can play a crucial role in promoting progress and development in our societies.” They also recognized the need for responsible development and use of AI, especially in the military domain.

“We need to ensure and safeguard a space for proper human control over the choices made by artificial intelligence programmes: human dignity itself depends on it,” Pope Francis concluded.

Before his G7 address, Pope Francis had a busy day, meeting world leaders like Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

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He also spent the morning with over 100 comedians, including Whoopi Goldberg, Chris Rock, and Jimmy Fallon, at the Vatican. The pope engaged with the humorists to spread joy and highlight the power of comedy in addressing serious issues.

“Instead of reading my speech, I’ll just do this,” Francis joked, wiggling his fingers at the crowd. He praised the comedians for their ability to bring smiles and reach diverse audiences. “Immersed as we are in many social and personal emergencies, you have the power to spread serenity and smiles,” he told them.

The pope’s light-hearted interaction with the comedians, including a playful moment with Fallon, underscored his message that humor can bridge cultural and generational gaps.

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