Fr. Paolo Benanti is a Third Order Regular Franciscan and professor of Moral Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University. In his research, teaching and outreach activities, he deals with ethics, specifically bioethics and ethics of technologies. In particular, as he writes on his personal website, his studies “focus on the management of innovation: the Internet and the impact of the Digital Age, biotechnologies regarding human enhancement and biosafety, neuroscience and neurotechnology.” Endowed with great communication and teaching skills, Fr. Benanti frequently appears in the media and collaborates with various academic, governmental and international institutions. He was recently appointed by the Secretary General of the United Nations as a member of the High-Level Advisory Body on Artificial Intelligence. Fr. Benanti kindly agreed to answer our questions, and we are grateful for his willingness to do so. In his answers, he enlightens us on many related issues that will define the future of humanity.
Fr. Benanti, you were recently appointed by UN Secretary General António Guterres as a member of the UN High-Level Advisory Body on Artificial Intelligence. We find it interesting that the only Italian in the group is a member of a religious order. Does this mean that the Italian Church is more advanced in thinking about the issue than others in Italy?
The rapid and global development of systems of artificial intelligence (AI) has taken most people by surprise. This rapidly changing scenario is an interdisciplinary process that calls upon different skills and disciplines, bringing numerous crisis factors and new stimuli to the table. The first element to emphasize is the fact that AIs represent a great challenge for everyone. In this general moment of transition, belonging to an institution such as the Church, and to an Order, the Franciscans, which have gone through other great social and cultural transitions, helps one to see in the different developments, instances of continuity and of novelty. I think that at this historical juncture, with the change of so many hitherto established elements, we can anticipate the development of new interactions between the Church and the rest of the world.