Author Topic: How Pope Francis could shape the future of robotics  (Read 55 times)

Offline Nusrat Jahan Momo

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 142
  • Test
    • View Profile
How Pope Francis could shape the future of robotics
« on: March 24, 2019, 08:58:37 AM »
It might not be the first place you imagine when you think about robots.

But in the Renaissance splendour of the Vatican, thousands of miles from Silicon Valley, scientists, ethicists and theologians gather to discuss the future of robotics.

The ideas go to the heart of what it means to be human and could define future generations on the planet.

The workshop, Roboethics: Humans, Machines and Health was hosted by The Pontifical Academy for Life.
Epochal changes

The Academy was created 25 years ago by Pope John Paul II in response to rapid changes in biomedicine.

It studies issues including advances in human genome editing techniques.

These techniques were controversially claimed to have been used by Chinese scientist He Jiankui, to alter the genes of twin girls so they could not get HIV.
Image caption Japanese professor Hiroshi Ishiguro, with his robot double

For the opening of the meeting, Pope Francis presented a letter to the Human Community, where he outlines the paradox of "progress" and cautions against developing technologies without first thinking of the possible costs to society.

In the letter, the Pope emphasises the need to study new technologies: communication technologies, nanotechnologies, biotechnologies and robotics.

"There is a pressing need, then, to understand these epochal changes and new frontiers in order to determine how to place them at the service of the human person, while respecting and promoting the intrinsic dignity of all," Pope Francis writes.
Human robots

In stark contrast to this message came a hypothesis from Japanese Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro, who says we will no longer be recognized as flesh and blood humans, in 10,000 years time.

Famous for creating extremely human-like robots at his lab in Osaka University, including one of himself, Prof Ishiguro spoke about the need to evolve our bodies away from their current materials to something more enduring.

"Our ultimate aim of human evolution is immortality by replacing the flesh and bones with inorganic material," he said.

"The question is what happens if something happens in the planet, or something happens on the Sun, so we cannot live in the planet, we need to live in space."

"In this case, which is better? Organic materials or inorganic materials?"
Image copyright Giordano Giuseppe
Image caption Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro addresses the Vatican's conference on Roboethics

For Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, there is a clear answer.

"This dream is a terrible dream," adding that it was "impossible" to divide the body and soul.

"The flesh is the body with the soul and the soul is a spirit with flesh," he asserted.

"The body is very important for human beings, through the body we love, through the body we embrace and communicate with one another," he said.

"We are aware on one side this is unbelievable progress, but on the other side, we felt that are risks that this development can give the world.

"The risk is we forget we are creatures, not creators."
Find out more

Listen to Why is the Pope is worried about robots?, on the Beyond Today podcast on BBC Sounds.
Image caption Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia hosted the conference
Robot rights

Creating robots that can do tasks humans can do, even intimate tasks like caring for elderly people or having a relationship, is a fundamental aspect of Prof Ishiguro's work.

"We have a serious problem, the Japanese population is going down to half the number of the current population within 50 years."

Instead of relying on human immigrants or a baby boom to solve the decline, Prof Ishiguro points to the possibility of utilising robots instead.

"We don't have enough annual immigrations, Japan is an isolated country, it's an island, our culture is quite different from other countries,"

"It is not so easy for the foreigners to survive in Japan in some sense,' Prof Ishiguro said.

"That is the main reason why we are so crazy for creating robots."

The European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies (EGE) released a report last year emphasising the "urgent and complex moral questions" raised by advances in AI and robotics.

It emphasized a need to for a collective and collaborative way of working to establish a set of values around which to organise society and the role these new technologies play.
Image copyright Pontifical Academy for Life
Image caption The meeting brought roboticists together with theologians and moral philosphers

"It was on the request of the European Commission to have ethical thoughts about the future of our societies and the future of work in times of robotics and artificial intelligence," said Professor Christiane Woopen, chair of the EGE and Professor of ethics and theory of medicine at Cologne University, who was at the Vatican.

The focus of the group's work is on how human rights relate to robots, rather than the idea of giving rights to new forms of autonomous technology.

"We are not of the opinion that AI or robots should have rights on their own," Prof Woopen said.

"Rights pertain to people and refer to fundamental rights, like human dignity, the right to autonomy."

"Those rights refer to people, to human beings, and they refer to the EU Charter on fundamental rights," she explained.

But Prof Ishiguro thinks the closer we get to having robots in our house and in our friendship circles, the more rights we will naturally want to give them.

"Once a robot is going to be a partner, or a companion for us, a friend for us, we will want to protect the robot of course," he said.

"As we give a kind of right to the animals, I think we will give a kind of right to the robots as well."
Image copyright Pontifical Academy for Life
Image caption Pope Francis listens to Archbishop Paglia

For Prof Woopen, blurring the lines between humans and robots and entering into relationships with them raises complex ethical issues.

"If you imagine that someday there will be a robot that completely behaves like a human being, moves like a human being, has facial expressions like a human being, how will you then decide whether this entity has a soul or not?"

"We use them for our purposes, because we are the beings who can set their goals, who can choose the means, who can do good and evil, but we are free human beings," she says.

"And I think that we shouldn't grant technical artefacts the freedom we have."
Ethics partnership

The Vatican recently partnered with Microsoft to offer an international prize on ethics and artificial intelligence, after a private meeting between Pope Francis and Microsoft President Brad Smith.

The prize is for the best doctoral dissertation of 2019 on the subject of "artificial intelligence in the service of human life".
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Pope Francis meets Microsoft's President Brad Smith

Next year, the agenda for the Academy's meeting focuses on artificial intelligence.

"We have underlined the importance of technical research, this is a really good gift that God gave to us," Archbishop Paglia says.

"But when we become similar to computers, we immediately see conflicts, dangers, inequalities and sometimes a terrible slavery with the other." he says.

Prof Woopen emphasised the need for governments to address these emerging ethical issues.

'We have to be faster in Europe," she said.

"But I think governments have already learned that these are crucial aspects to regulate and deal with because this will just shape our societies without taking account of what governments say, if they don't."
Related Topics

    Robotics

Share this story About sharing

    Email
    Facebook
    Messenger
    Twitter
    Pinterest
    LinkedIn

More on this story

    Pius XII: Vatican to open secret Holocaust-era archives
    4 March 2019
    How will Pope Francis deal with abuse in the Catholic Church?
    20 February 2019
    Pope Francis condemns world of materialism and poverty
    24 December 2018

Technology
Tech Tent: Google comes out to play
Rory Cellan-Jones Technology correspondent

    22 March 2019
    From the section Technology

Full article Tech Tent: Google comes out to play
Early Cambridge Analytica fears revealed

    22 March 2019
    From the section Technology

Full article Early Cambridge Analytica fears revealed
Why bots probably aren't gaming the 'Cancel Brexit' petition

    22 March 2019
    From the section Technology

Full article Why bots probably aren't gaming the 'Cancel Brexit' petition
More Videos from the BBC

Lois Weber: the trailblazing director who shocked the world
Colombia’s river of five colours

    Incredible Ghanaian film posters

Why Britain’s rain can’t sustain its thirst
What happens when we run out of food?

    The art of perseverance: How gaman defined Japan

Recommended by Outbrain
Elsewhere on BBC

    BBC News Distant object 'like nothing seen before'

    BBC News Love Island's Mike Thalassitis dies aged 26

    BBC News Suspect's handcuffed body found in river

Recommended by Outbrain
You Might Also Like

    BBC Culture Is Jodorowsky’s Dune the greatest film never made?

    BBC Travel A journey to the Disappointment Islands

    BBC Travel The three values that shaped Singapore

From Around the Web

25 Insanely Cool Products You Didn't Know You Needed Top25.nexttech.com
Amid Brexit Uncertainty, Country Homes in England Are Safest Bets Mansion Global
25 Insanely Cool Gadgets Flying off Shelves (Should #7 Be Banned for Civilians) Top25.nexttech.com
For Sale: Cristiano Ronaldo's Former Manchester Mansion Mansion Global
Language expert explains how to learn a language in 15 mins a day Babbel

    U.S. Dentist: The Easiest Way to Get a Brighter Smile Shiny New Gadgets

Promoted content by Outbrain
Top Stories
Trump hails fall of IS 'caliphate'

The Islamic State group remains a threat despite the fall of its final territory, President Trump says.
2 hours ago
Thailand votes in first post-coup election
39 minutes ago
Thousands join London Brexit referendum march
5 hours ago
Advertisement
Features
A toxic warning to the world
The lives lost and the world they reveal
Iceland embraces band's bleak message for Eurovision
Was southern Africa prepared for Cyclone Idai?
How Maori haka unify New Zealand in grief
Pope Francis and the future of robots
Video
The war in Europe that won't go away
Five simple tips to improve your Scrabble game
Caliphate defeated but IS remains a threat
Elsewhere on the BBC
Lyrics quiz

Have you been getting these songs wrong?
Full article Lyrics quiz
Feeling hot

What happens to your body in extreme heat?
Full article Feeling hot
Most Read

    1 Norway cruise ship evacuated after engine problems
    2 Brexit march: Million joined Brexit protest, organisers say
    3 Michael Jackson: Barbra Streisand apologises for abuse remarks
    4 Josh Hanson murder: Shane O'Brien detained in Romania
    5 'Cancel Brexit' petition woman receives death threats
    6 Rafi Eitan: Mossad spy who captured Adolf Eichmann dies
    7 Trump hails fall of Islamic State 'caliphate' in Syria
    8 More than 100 Mali villagers killed by gunmen
    9 Newspaper headlines: 'Cabinet coup' and speedboat killer 'to return to UK'
    10 Is this America's most hated family?

Source: bbc news