IBM and Microsoft support the Vatican’s guidelines for ethical AI

The ‘Rome Call for AI Ethics’ recommends AI that safeguards human rights.

IBM and Microsoft have signed the Vatican's "Rome Call for AI Ethics," a pledge to develop artificial intelligence in a way that protects all people and the planet, Financial Times reports. Microsoft President Brad Smith and John Kelly, IBM's executive vice-president, are among the first global tech leaders to sign the document.

The pledge, presented to Pope Francis today, calls for AI that safeguards the rights of all humans, especially the underprivileged, and for new regulations in areas like facial recognition. It asks tech leaders to "humanise technology and not 'technologise' humanity," Novena News reports.

"The Vatican is not an expert on the technology but on values," Francesca Rossi, IBM's global AI ethics leader, said in a statement. "The collaboration is to make the Vatican and the whole society understand how to use this technology with these values."

The pledge is part of a larger workshop on ethical AI led by the Pontifical Academy for Life in the Vatican this week. The Academy hopes governments, NGOs, industry leaders and other associations will join the "Rome Call for AI Ethics," along with tech companies like IBM and Microsoft.

It's unclear what this means in the long run, but this is an interesting symbolic move for IBM and Microsoft as they pledge to make ethical AI. Last year, Facebook backed an independent AI ethics research center, and Google has formed an external council to guide "responsible development and use."

The European Union has released its own guidelines for ethical AI development, and Canada and France are tackling the issue. Meanwhile, the White House has cautioned against over-regulating AI.