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Ambassador Gingrich at the Symposium “From Awe to Wisdom: Ethics in the Age of Artificial Intelligence"
March 20, 2019

Ambassador stands at a poem, giving a speech.

U.S. Embassy to the Holy See
Rome, Italy
March 20, 2019

As Delivered:

Good morning and welcome to the United States Embassy to the Holy See!

This is the first time our embassy has hosted a symposium on artificial intelligence.  I’m pleased that we’ve convened an impressive group of thought leaders to speak on this important subject.

Today we are also joined by Embassy Vatican’s first-ever Science Fellow, Paul Nelson, who works for the U.S. Agency for International Development. Paul is here to explore how we can work with the Vatican on artificial intelligence.  We’re fortunate to have him with us.

So why does the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See need a science fellow in the first place? The answer is actually quite simple. Artificial intelligence is transforming nearly every aspect of our daily lives. This reality is directly related to our work with the Holy See, as we advance and defend human dignity around the world.

The advent of artificial intelligence is not new. It traces back more than six decades – when computers were bigger than refrigerators and could store only 5 megabytes of data! In the summer of 1956, 12 American scientists gathered at Dartmouth to determine if machines could think like humans. Together, they founded the field of artificial intelligence – the topic we’ll discuss today. Now, 63 years later, we can say that the age of artificial intelligence is here, and with it, the hope of a better world.

The potential for AI is immense, and its power unprecedented. Today we’re witnessing advances in self-driving cars, industrial robots, and algorithms for disease identification.  Artificial intelligence can improve safety, strengthen productivity, and create new industries we can’t even imagine.  Moreover, AI can create global classrooms, and educate millions of students around the world.  It can also revolutionize healthcare – from drones that deliver life-saving medicine, to machines that diagnose and prevent deadly epidemics.

How and why we use artificial intelligence is just as important as what we can achieve. It’s imperative that we consider the ethical implications of artificial intelligence, and work to mitigate potential negative effects.  How do we use artificial intelligence to boost economies without displacing millions of workers through automation?  How do we increase machine-learning in medicine and transportation, without unlawful surveillance, data gathering, or cyber threats?  How can we ensure, as Pope Francis says, that these technologies serve “the good of all humanity, not just the few?”Realizing the full potential of artificial intelligence, and answering these fundamental questions, will require collaboration across governments, industries, and academia.

In this context, the United States, with President Trump’s leadership, has taken steps to ensure that artificial intelligence is truly a force for good.  In February, President Trump issued an executive order announcing the American AI Initiative. And just yesterday, the White House launched AI.gov, a new website showcasing the Trump Administration’s commitment to leadership in artificial intelligence. This website is an excellent resource for those who want to learn how the United States plans to develop safe, responsible, and trustworthy AI technologies.

A major principle guiding President Trump’s AI Initiative is that the United States “must foster public trust and confidence” in artificial intelligence through the protection of “civil liberties, privacy, and American values” – at home and abroad. Discussions like this play an important role in meeting these principles. As we consider the ethical implications of this technology, we can discover new areas of common ground.

It is my hope that through our engagement with the Holy See and thought leaders like you, we can help create a future in which artificial intelligence makes our common home more peaceful, secure, and prosperous.

Thank you.