Jun 16, 2022

EWTN Vatican - Can Robots Learn Law? The Future of AI

Scientists and theologians discuss the future of Artificial Intelligence during the “Topology of Intelligence” conference, hosted in Rome by the Templeton World Charity Foundation.

By Templeton Staff

Will robots one day be better at medicine and law than human beings? That was one of the topics discussed by scientists and theologians at the "Topology of Intelligence” conference, funded by Templeton World Charity Foundation (TWCF). The event brought together experts in engineering, mathematics, biology, philosophy, and theology. Scholars from both secular and pontifical universities sought to describe the “connection between science and philosophy” by focusing on “complexity, reality and the research on intelligence.”

The conference was organized around three concepts: expressing, defining, and understanding intelligence. Max Bonilla, international director of the Expanded Reason Institute at the University of Francisco de Vitoria in Spain began the conversation to “bridge Church and science.” Next, Andrew Barron, a neuroethologist at Australia’s Macquarie University and a TWCF grantee under the Diverse Intelligences priority explained how bees display intelligent behavior in their flight patterns and navigation decisions. Next, theologian and physicist Giulio Maspero discussed with theoretical physicist Mario Rasetti the difficulties of measuring artificial intelligence (AI). Thirdly, a panel of interdisciplinary scholars explained how AI will master skills or arts such as medicine, law, and mathematics on an equal level to and, eventually, better than humans, but so far, lacks self-awareness. They further discussed how the development of this mastery will have an impact on our view of the human person, our self-understanding, and human rights. 

Marta Bertolaso, a professor at the Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome who helped to organize the conference, said: “I think that we are at a good moment to discuss intelligence and specifically artificial intelligence, because there are many questions around these topics.” She shared that she believes the challenge posed by AI is not the technological possibilities, but how humans will find ways to use AI for building new environments that benefit humanity. Andrew Serazin, President of Templeton World Charity Foundation, said he is also “tremendously optimistic about the application of science and technology,” as well as the development of AI, so long as we “retain our fundamental values of the pursuit of truth.” Because there are more and more algorithms making decisions for people, Serazin says the Foundation wants to be sure to “keep humans in the loop.” He said: “What’s so important about retaining the human perspective, and also an understanding of the human person that comes from theology and philosophy, is fundamental dignity that is located within humanity — not to outsource those decisions to algorithms or machines and to retain the decision-making authority with people. Because it is people that have, fundamentally, the moral authority to act in the world.”

That the conference brought together both scientists and faith leaders is important, says Serazin, because “communities of faith and communities of learning are pillars of our civilization. “These are hallmarks of the best of humanity,” he said. “And so when we think about trying to solve any problem, whether that’s climate change, or poverty, or applications of artificial intelligence, we must bring all of the resources that humanity can bring.”

Learn more in the ETWN Vatican video above, featuring Andreas Thonhauser, EWTN Rome Bureau Chief in conversation with Marta Bertolaso, Professor of Philosophy of Science and Human Development at the Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome, and Andrew Serazin, President of Templeton World Charity Foundation. 

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