We must be guided by ethics in adopting Artificial Intelligence – CBCN

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By Philomina Attah

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) says the adoption of Artificial Intelligence (Al) must be guided ethical principles, in spite of its enormous benefits.

The President, CBCN, Most Rev. Lucius Ugorji said this in Abuja at the Maiden Communication Week (COMWEEK) Public Lecture by Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN).

The theme of the lecture was ” Artificial Intelligence: Challenges and Opportunities for Evangelisation and Social Development.’’

” Artificial intelligence is a subject of debate and labelling it as artificial suggests a replication or limitation, as it is derived from human intelligence.”

Ugorji, also the Archbishop of Owerri, said that in spite of its versatility and technological prowess, the AI remained a facsimile of the original, namely human cognition

“AI is a term born from advances in computer science and digital technology. It endows machines with the capacity for intelligent behaviour through sophisticated algorithms.

“Today, computers can perform tasks traditionally requiring human intelligence, such as understanding natural language, recognising patterns, learning from data, and making decisions.

“This has turned out to be a cause for joy and a reason for worry at the same time.

“It is a thing of joy because of the enormous positive possibilities as a result of the digital technology and worrisome because of the grave life-defining dangers they pose at the same time,” he said.

” We must strive for a balance that prioritises human welfare alongside technological progress, being mindful of ethical and moral dilemmas as well as risks such as job displacement.”

He said that the church had ceaselessly emphasised that collaboration between Al experts and social development practitioners was crucial.

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According to him, Al could significantly contribute to the common good of the people.

“At this gathering, we hope to learn from experts the responsible and ethical use of Al not only to benefit the society but also to support the Church’s evangelisation efforts.”

He said that the Al should be a tool for empowerment and progress and not a source of division or destruction.

He said that the CBCN plans to create a forum for experts to discuss issues concerning not only the church and its mission but also the broader welfare of the society.

The Archbishop Emeritus of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, said the position of the Pope had been in line with the constant magisterium of the church.

He said that all scientific progress was gift from God to humanity and to be used for human well-being to the glory of God.

“The latest in the world today is bringing out machines that try to imitate human thinking. We don’t know how far developments in this regard will go.

“But the warning of Pope Francis remains valid: that it is not everything that we can do that we should do. Even scientific progress must be subject to human, moral, and ethical control.

“This is a responsibility that humanity abdicates at its great peril,” he said.

Rev. Fr. Anthony Akinwale, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Augustine University, Ilara-Epe, Lagos, said that artificial was not intelligence because it lacked self-determination.

“My argument so far has been, if it is intelligent, it is not artificial and if it is artificial, it is not intelligent.

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“Artificial intelligence is not intelligent because of its privation of self-consciousness and self-volition. That raises a question: Where does this lead us?

“The submission in the preceding section of this paper neither diminishes nor denies the astounding accomplishment of science and technology in the area of computational informatics.

“It only serves to call attention to a misnomer conventionally taken for granted. This misnomer, if ignored, will have, and in fact, already having precautions in the arena of ethics in which we human beings find ourselves, the arena of inter-relationship.

“The pertinence of these remarks stems from the fact that artificial intelligence is a tool and not a substitute for the human person,” he said.

He, however, added that the technology could be used properly if well understood because communication was not just about dissemination of information. (NAN)

Edited by Ali Baba-Inuwa

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