Pope Francis as Stable Genius

Pope Francis recently addressed executives from leading tech companies throughout the world. According to CRUX, “Participants included executives from Silicon Valley giants such as Facebook, Mozilla, LinkedIn and Western Digital. Also in attendance were Nobel laureates, government officials, internet entrepreneurs” Face-time with such an audience is extremely valuable. His lecture: “Pope warns of ‘new barbarism’ in age of artificial intelligence.”

There is an ancient saying, “If you don’t know what you’re talking about, don’t say anything.” It is also biblical wisdom. The Book of Proverbs, allegedly written by King Solomon, says it repeatedly. Pope Francis rejected the way of wisdom.

His central point: “advances in fields such as artificial intelligence (AI) cannot lead to a new ‘form of barbarism,’ where the common good is abandoned to the rule of law of the strongest.” More specifically, Pope Francis “warned against the use of AI to ‘circulate tendentious opinions and false data 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.’”

Pope Francis obviously knows nothing about AI, which is a set of tools, independent of the particular applications to which they are applied. In general, it consists of techniques for minimizing or maximizing some quantity. Even in the case that Pope Francis vaguely alludes to - segmenting the population into groups that might be receptive to some message – AI uses minimization techniques - finding segments whose within-group variability of opinion/belief is minimized relative to the variability between groups.

Railing against such techniques is like railing against mechanical excavators because they can be used to create mass graves, thus facilitating mass murders. The Catholic Church has a history of such idiocy. Thus the Papal States missed out on the industrial revolution because some ‘infallible’ popes – especially the sainted Pius IX – decided that the steam engine was evil, and outlawed locomotives and other productivity tools. The Papal States, forced to use primitive technology, were soon impoverished. They repeatedly revolted against their incompetent papal rulers, and were repeatedly suppressed by foreign armies.

Railing against AI is just as stupid as railing against the steam engine. Infallible popes are slow learners. While they have adopted certain technologies – especially Vatican Radio, and other technology for spreading propaganda - they still claim that oral contraceptives are mortal sins, and even proclaim that those with AIDS should not use condoms. Pious though their intentions may be, their actions are evil. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Google used to have a much better guideline regarding AI and other technologies – “Don’t be evil.” (You don’t hear much about it these days.) If Pope Francis and his army of advisors had any sense, they would have taken a similar stance.

Pope Francis does this sort of thing repeatedly. For example, he claimed critics of an abusive Chilean bishop were guilty of “calumny.” Again, he had no idea what he was talking about. He assigned an advisor to verify his claim. Within days, the advisor produced a report of over 1000 pages documenting the sexual crimes of this bishop, using widely available reports stemming from court cases. Pope Francis learned little from this emabarrassment. Neither did the mass media.

Pope Francis and his advisors believe they are divinely inspired and don’t need no stinking facts. For them, like President Trump, inconvenient facts are simply fake news.

 

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