- The Washington Times
Tuesday, October 1, 2019


Pope Francis, in a Vatican conference titled, “The Common Good in the Digital Age,” warned that artificial intelligence could one day, if humans aren’t careful, bring about a world where the weak are suppressed and outright ruled by those with the technological mostest — and that would lead to a society more barbaric than free.

And as left as this pope typically leans when he speaks of policy and politics, on this, he’s got a point.

Here’s what he said, A.I. News reported: “If mankind’s so-called technological progress were to become an enemy of the common good, this would lead to an unfortunate regression to a form of barbarism dictated by the law of the strongest.”

Here’s what he means: If scientists, researchers and technological wizards don’t consider the ethical and moral sides of what they’re advancing, then humanity will take a back seat to progress. The less fortunate, the less intelligent, the less creative, the less all-around capable will become swept to the side, the shoulder-shrugging byproduct of continuous competitive computer advancement.

This is true.

This is a real societal danger.

We’ve already seen a taste of this sweeping in the business sector where human workers are being replaced with rising frequency with machines. Think retail and self-checkout lines; think customer service and online chatbots.

Technology has its many positives, but it also forces workers to retrain, re-educate and reevaluate how they might stay relevant — not to mention cost-efficient, in comparison to machines.

Not all are up to the task.

So as a solution, some Democrats, some Republicans and almost all the socialists and progressives and elitists in the scientific community suggest the implementation of a universal basic income — a sort of set salary for those displaced by, say, robots. A salary for the sake of being alive.

A salary that depends nothing on ability and everything on entitlement.

But this is not the answer — particularly in America, where the free market is supposed to reign, and where the prices for goods and services — and by logical extension, profits — are driven by demand.

The pope, in his remarks, didn’t mention job displacement. He focused instead of fake news — on what he called “false data” from A.I.-fueled online sites that “could poison public debates and even manipulate the opinions of millions of people, to the point of endangering the very institutions that guarantee peaceful civil coexistence.”

And no doubt, knowing this pope, knowing his leftist way of thinking — his embrace of climate change regulation, his push for open borders around the world, his barely concealed contempt for President Donald Trump — he probably meant “fake news” as code for conservative.

But he still has a point.

The pope, warning about the barbaric conditions of societies that embrace technology over humanity, sounds an important alarm.

Artificial intelligence absent moral and ethical people will doom humanity to dark ages.

• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at cchumley@washingtontimes.com or on Twitter @ckchumley.

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