back to article Pope goes fire and brimstone on the dangers of AI

Artificial intelligence is so overhyped right now that even the Catholic Church is wagging a finger. Organized as ever, Pope Francis got his annual message for the World Day of Peace in a full 145 days early to warn of the technology's "disruptive possibilities and ambivalent effects." Lest you think he only heard about AI …

  1. Rich 2 Silver badge

    AI is EVIL….

    …says head of one of the most abhorrent organisations that has ever existed.

    1. Howard Sway Silver badge

      Re: AI is EVIL….

      Oh come on, the Ed Sheeran Fan Club (hon. president, E. Sheeran) may be a bit pathetic, but I wouldn't go that far.

      Mind you the bland guy is going to be shocked when he learns what the steam powered loom did to all the weavers..

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: AI is EVIL….

        I thought the Weavers just got older and stopped making music. Was there some sort of bizarre on-stage loom re-enactment based accident? Is there footage?

        ...OK. I'm geting my coat...

    2. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

      Re: AI is EVIL….

      head of one of the most abhorrent organisations that has ever existed

      The organization that promised not to do EVIL in not so distant past, you mean?

    3. cyberdemon Silver badge

      "God was a dream of good government"

      was the quote from my favourite PC Game. For a game produced in 2000 projecting a dystopian future based on 90's Usenet Conspiracy Theory boards, it has been eerily accurate. Suggesting perhaps, that some of those conspiracy theories that it was based on may have been true.

      One of its predictions was that the principal use of AI in the future would be mass surveillance - a digital panopticon where every individual is watched by the system at all times. And that the people would not only accept this, but they would eventually worship it as a God. That hasn't happened quite yet, as the system doesn't really have a unified "consciousness" that it can portray. But as soon as we can all have a personal relationship with the same chatbot, then I think it could happen, and I think that will be a very scary future indeed.

      > …says head of one of the most abhorrent organisations that has ever existed.

      Agreed, to a point. Religion has brought us inquisitions, crusades, wars, torture, and massacres. And it's all based on a load of bollocks. But without it, I believe civilisation would never have come to exist. We would still be the apes at the start of 2001: A space odyssey. So I kind of thank the Pope and his chums for that, actually. Plus, Christianity has (mostly) cleaned up its act in the past few decades. There was some very nasty abuse of children by some of its senior members, but I do believe them when they say they are doing their best to root it out. They don't do crusades, massacres and witch-burnings anymore at least.

      The abhorrent organisations are the shady ones in the back-rooms of governments, who will use any means necessary to ensure that the rich and powerful stay that way. One of those means is AI.

      (and yes, the Catholic Church used to be one such organisation. But I don't think it has quite so much influence as it once did. Maybe i'm wrong though)

      1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

        Re: "God was a dream of good government"

        The definitions of Religion have almost always been wonderful and good for all people ... but all the problems we see everywhere are a result of people making decisions that they see as good even though their "answers" may be stupid but the people have just been told that they are good. So bad religious incidents seem to be essentially just a replication of the AI environment - unrecognizable stupidity.

        1. cyberdemon Silver badge
          Big Brother

          Re: "God was a dream of good government"

          Well.. I think the key difference in our argument is what I'd call "Absolutism". The idea that some person or organisation can hold an un-challengeable idea and is beyond reproach.

          In the Bad Old Days of religion, anyone who had a serious disagreement with a Priest was called a Heretic, and was burned at the stake for his or her views.

          Nobody would ever be stupid enough to take the bullshit that is excreted out of a so-called AI and call it an Absolute Truth, would they? (?!)

      2. Plest Silver badge

        Re: "God was a dream of good government"

        Oh hell yeah......Electric Eye by Judas Priest!!

        ( BDSM guy, the closest thing to Rob Halford's stage kit! )

    4. Boring Bob

      Re: AI is EVIL….

      Go back to commenting at the Daily Mail

  2. Pete 2 Silver badge

    It won't happen

    > Hollywood movies have been telling you, 'Don't do it.' And now everyone's doing it," he said. "I'm just like, 'Have you not seen the movies where they kill us all?'

    Have you seen Hollywood's early sci-fi movies?

    Now look at their "early" AI movies and compare just how accurate silent versions of Jules Verne was with actual spaceflight. Using that as a baseline, we can say that nothing Hollywood is telling us about AI is remotely close to how the real-world future will be.

    1. that one in the corner Silver badge

      Re: It won't happen

      Ed Sheeran's 60 years of Hollywood takes us back to the dim, dark days of 1963, not 1864!

      Jules Verne passed away in 1905; his "From the Earth to the Moon" came in 1864, "Around the Moon" in 1870. Georges Méliès "Le Voyage dans la Lune" came out in 1902 and probably wasn't trying to be scientifically accurate. Compare that to "Destination Moon" in 1950, which is a famously pretty good depiction of space (the worst offence being the single-stage-to-Lunar-Landing-and-return rocket).

      Okay, we do then end up with "Gravity" which makes claims that it really, really does not live up to. But the vast, vast majority of space travel depicted in Hollywood is even more unrealistic and deliberately so: FTL drives, artificial gravity everywhere, acting like space only has two dimensions (and other "Space is really just the Ocean" tropes).

      Now, AI in films from 1963 to the present day, as Mr Sheeran referenced?

      Well, of course we have "2001: A Space Odyssey" in 1968, showing what happens when you deliberately tell an AI to lie. And, according to some reports, HAL was a lot more polite than ChatGPT or Bing has been.

      "Colossus: The Forbin Project":a chat bot is given access to the world's network and then demands to be connected to his counterpart? No weird "emotions" portrayed, just the machine doing what it wanted to and we were stupid enough to connect it to All The Things (like missiles); the use of a pen-plotter was good. Just too many flashing lights and weird modules in the hardware (but if you tried to tell Hollywood that AI actually needs to be built out of Video Game Hardware, back in 1970, who'd believe you?).

      "Silent Running", 1972, showed that the robots had to be reprogrammed to do something outside of their normal duties, which seems reasonable. As humans, we read emotion into them (e.g. looking up into deep space in a soulful fashion) but all the anthropomorphism was actually coming from Bruce Dern's character.

      "Dark Star", 1974, discussed the disconnect between the AI and reality - hmm, seems like we've been having that conversation lately.

      Then we have AI (in terms of what we are currently being sold as "AI") just in the background, not the focus of the main story or protagonists. Self-driving cars aplenty (e.g. "Minority Report" in 2002 - or the 1966 Batmobile, which had a working "leave parking spot and come to me" bat-function).

      Frankly, from this Hollywood has done a far better job of presenting AI than it ever has done presenting Space!

  3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    It's not really AI

    It just takes random fragments of earlier things people had written and re-mixes them and builds on them without any fundamental understanding of what the original stuff meant or what it was for.

    Now excuse me, because I have to wear a purple scarf today and not eat prawn cocktail crisps because it's the first sunday after the first new moon after the vernal equinox.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      +1 for the self deprection of humans

      a required step for self improvement

    2. sabroni Silver badge

      I'm not superstitious

      I just think if I don't do it some bad luck might happen to me!

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Could be worse

    This highly entertaining link was recently posted in a Reg comment ... It's a Banana - Red Dwarf - BBC

    ... the TV drama comedy predicted a robot that was honest at creation and had to be trained to be dishonest. But it turns out in 2023 that newly born LLM's are inherently pathological liars, and it's currently really hard to "teach" them to be honest.

    1. Phones Sheridan Silver badge

      Re: Could be worse

      I was disappointed by that episode, because it didn’t address the all important question… “would anybody like any toast?”

      1. Plest Silver badge

        Re: Could be worse

        "Howdy doodly doo! Talkie's the name and toasting's my game!"

    2. David Nash Silver badge

      Re: Could be worse

      It's not that they are liars...more that they don't have any concept of truth vs. untruth, so are unable to discriminate.

  5. IGotOut Silver badge

    Mmmm 'kay

    "so that a logic of violence and discrimination does not take root "

    Has he actually read the Bible?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Mmmm 'kay

      >read the Bible

      Isn't that a bit protestant?

      With his lot you just have to believe what the man with the big hat says. Which is a problem if you are the man

  6. Winkypop Silver badge

    Evil you say

    If only the big C was without sin.

    Taking moral advice from the Pope is like taking an ethics course with Hitler.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Evil you say

      Big C is without sin, just believe the holy book of the prophets K & R

      1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Re: Evil you say

        just believe the holy book of the prophets K & R

        So ANSI C was the Reformation?

        Programmers have long had a tendency to want to burn heretics(*) at the stake.

        (*) Emacs, should you ask. :-)

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Evil you say

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Evil you say

      A few fans of the German tourist I see.

  7. TheMaskedMan Silver badge

    Disruptive possibilities and ambivalent effects, eh? Did any of his predecessors have anything similar to say about the dawn of the internet? Computers? Cars? Pretty much everything from the industrial revolution onwards?

    Probably best if he sticks to the mythology.

    1. that one in the corner Silver badge

      > Did any of his predecessors have anything similar to say about ...

      The Church was not terribly happy about the printing press; except when they were using it, of course (and it doesn't really matter *which* Church you look at - except, perhaps, for the Quakers). Gutenberg himself was deemed Ok (printing Catholic Bibles helped; The Big G. was quite shrewd) but then everyone else got involved, including The Minions Of Satan (aka whichever sect you weren't in).

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Everything gets confusing when the church steps in.

        For example, if piracy is morally wrong, how is it that I can pirate the bible?

        Also, it's perfectly fine to walk into a Church off the street for some quiet reflection...but if I do the same thing at a bible thumping neighbors house, they call the Police.

        I've given up's easier to be an atheist and come to my own conclusions.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Pretty sure the Bible is out of Copyright…

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Copyright is the life of the author plus 70 years, so... if one were to claim that God is the author....

            1. TheMaskedMan Silver badge

              As I recall, the King James Edition is Crown Copyright here in England, but just about all other editions that I looked at weren't. Mine you, it's been a looong time since I looked into that so I could be wrong.

        2. Pascal Monett Silver badge
          Thumb Down

          Strawman argument.

          A Church is a public place specifically designed to welcome all who enter.

          You neighbor's house is private property.

          You really shouldn't confuse the two.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Churches are designed around the "treat thy neighbour" clause in the standard Christian contract and presumably follow the teachings of the "Good Samaritan".

            I don't recall an "...unless property is deemed to be private..." clause in the commandments.

            I'm not really a Christian, it's been a while since my parents treated Sunday school as cheap babysitting, but I don't recall any lessons on "battening down the hatches, lock all the doors, repel all borders in case a twat walks in" lessons.

      3. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

        As a matter of historical fact, the Catholic Church was very much in favour of the moveable-type printing press. Rome was the first city outside of Germany to house a printing press (just 13 years after Gutenberg’s), and the leaders of the church was shrewd enough to see that this would make access to the printed word far cheaper and easier, so they made sure that their message was out there first.

        Certain individual Catholics, specifically the scribes who worked out of monasteries across Europe and earned quite a nice income from copying manuscripts, may have had a different view of Gutenberg’s new machine, but at the top of the church it was not seen as a threat, but rather an opportunity.

        Printing certainly facilitated the spread of the Protestant Reformation, but that was a about fifty years later, by which time printing was just a part of the modern world, and seen as an instrument that was not inherently good or evil.

    2. Boring Bob

      Yes, his predecessors did, just you were not listening. The Vatican is one of the institutions that is the most informed on science. They have came a long way since Galileo. Numerous discoveries and leaps in science have been made by scientists within the Catholic church (priests and monks). One way to study God is to study his creation, science is one of the means to do that.

  8. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    If the printing press didn't cause the reformation, it certainly helped. You have to watch these disruptive technologies when you're the incumbent monopoly

    1. Benegesserict Cumbersomberbatch Silver badge

      Read Arthur C. Clarke's The Nine Billion Names of God for the ultimate in disruptive technology.

      1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Read Arthur C. Clarke's The Nine Billion Names of God for the ultimate in disruptive technology.

        At least it solved the Halting Problem.

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      It may have helped the reformation, but if I'm not mistaken, the Bible is still the #1 book being printed every year.

      Which Bible is a different question.

  9. Grogan Bronze badge

    "Would you like to see the Pope, on the end of a rope, do you think he's a fool..." - Black Sabbath - After Forever

    Yes and yes.

    (I know the context it was meant in, but I've been saying that since I first heard it as a teen lol)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The Pope isn't the problem, it's those under him, the priests taking advantage of the inherent trust given them by way of the job they took. If you want to see anyone on the end of a rope, let it be those despicable priests who couldn't keep their wandering hands to themselves and blighted so many of us in our young lives.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        >, it's those under him

        And with the Vatican Congress and Senate deadlocked and facing re-election there is nothing he can do to deal with them.

        It's not like he has the inquisition and a private army, armed with multi-function knives.

      2. Grogan Bronze badge

        Fuck the pope and anybody that even utters nonsense from that despicable religion. My tolerance for it is over.

  10. Michael Hoffmann Silver badge

    This attitude will last...

    ... until about 5 minutes after the first "AI" expresses an interest to convert to Catholicism.

  11. xyz Silver badge

    Pope's probably worried...

    AI goes off and finds God or finds there is no God or decides it is God or worse decides X Musk should be God.... Aaarrrggghhh.

    1. Plest Silver badge

      Re: Pope's probably worried...

      "... for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets killed on the next zebra crossing."

  12. Phones Sheridan Silver badge

    “ ***No AI was used in the production of this article***”

    But then ChatGPT WOULD say that, wouldn’t it?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Trust ElReg if they say their vulture is neither artificial nor intelligent.

  13. Bebu Silver badge
    Big Brother


    low mileage, immaculate condition

    Is it just me or does his holiness here remind anyone of Arthur Daley trying to flog a dodgy motor or this case a very dodgy robot?

    Vocabulary += dicastery (thankfully nothing to do with pederastery.)

  14. Citizen of Nowhere

    ***No AI was used in the production of this article***

    Prove it.

  15. Graham Marsden

    I'm sure all those Priests would welcome ChatGPT to write their sermons for them...

    ... and then their "sincere" apologies and pleas for forgiveness when they've been caught diddling choir boys...

  16. David Nash Silver badge

    Bit harsh on Ed

    He summed it up nicely with "have you not seen the movies?"

  17. TimMaher Silver badge

    I am God.

    Yes, but we are man.

    Thanks to Evensong by Lester del Rey.

  18. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "Have you not seen the movies where they kill us all?"

    Of course not. They pay to make the movies, not to watch them.

    They are busy people. They have no time to watch movies.

    Too many hookers and lines of blow . . .

  19. Tron Silver badge

    AI may spout nonsense that impressionable kids might accept.

    Can you imagine the fuss if it informed a group of schoolchildren that the world was created in 7 days by an extraterrestrial, and people could come back from the dead!! Shocking.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let's give a rest to the pathetic, anti-papal hatred and leave that to Daily Mail commentators. Does any one have anything to add to what he said?

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