Pope to endorse principles on AI ethics with Microsoft,
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[February 28, 2020] By
(Reuters) - Vatican officials on Friday
planned to release principles promoting the ethical use of artificial
intelligence (AI), with the backing of Microsoft Corp <MSFT.O> and
International Business Machines Corp <IBM.N> as the first two technology
The "Rome Call for AI Ethics" asserts that the technology should respect
privacy, work reliably and without bias, consider "the needs of all
human beings" and operate transparently - an area of ongoing research
because AI systems' decisions are often inscrutable.
The document reflects growing interest among companies and institutions
to set guardrails for the fast-evolving technology. Police have used
facial recognition systems to investigate crimes, and Fortune 500
companies have used AI to vet job applicants - both examples of
high-stakes tasks where deploying inaccurate or biased software could
lead to harm.
The Vatican's initiative grew out of concerns that Pope Francis raised
about AI and its effect on society more than a year ago, according to
John Kelly III, executive vice president of IBM and one of the
"His major concerns were, will it be available to everyone, or is it
going to further bifurcate the haves and the have-not's?" Kelly told
Reuters in an interview. Vatican officials also had concerns about AI
displacing jobs and met with IBM in the United States at a research
center in September, he said.
Pope Francis was due to receive the document Friday to conclude a
conference that the Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Life hosted this
week on AI ethics. Others participating included the European
Parliament's President David Sassoli and Microsoft's President Brad
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Pope Francis waves during the weekly general audience at Vatican,
February 26, 2020. REUTERS/Remo Casilli
It was not immediately clear which other technology companies might sign
on to the document going forward, or how signatories would implement the
IBM for instance wants a doctor to be in the loop when its AI makes
healthcare recommendations - something that may increase over time
following a deal it announced this week with the Bambino Gesł Children's
Hospital in Rome. That partnership will focus on developing technology
to speed up diagnosis and treatment of brain tumor patients.
Both IBM and Microsoft have said they turned down business when they
felt uncomfortable with how a customer wanted to use their technology.
Still, according to Kelly, about a third of the ethics questions IBM
typically faces have no obvious answer.
"Going forward we're going to see more falling in that category, only
because the technology is advancing so fast," he said.
(Reporting By Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco; Editing by Simon
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