Vatican Vs. Killer Robots!

Opinionated Catholic asks: In 25 Years Will There Be A Papal Statement on Robots?

Who can say? Always in motion, the future is.

But this one seems a pretty sure bet, in part for the reasons that Opinionated Catholic cites:

What happens when warfare can be conducted just by robots. . . .
It appears this world is fast approaching. That is one reason when I hear of aircraft that have no humans, tanks that have no commander, and ships with no crews I start wondering if we want to go down this road.

What about new Just War theory issues? An inequity between nations that can have robots do the dying for them and those that have to use real live human beings?

However there is no stopping it. Soon we will have to deal with the moral and ethical questions involved here.

It’s a sure bet that the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace will be all over the issue of battlefield robots, with papal comments to follow, and perhaps even a whole papal document devoted to the subject, though that’s more iffy.

I would guess that we won’t be seeing full armies of autonomous droids in twenty-five years, though we already have a variety of battlefield robots, and their presence will increase over time.

And yes, technologically and economically developed countries—like ours—will have more and better robots than other countries, with poor ones not having any.

This disparity will be noted and will be part of the inevitable discussion—which will be prompted by the just as inevitable use of robots.

When I first saw the headline wondering whether there would be a papal statement on robots in twenty-five years, though, it wasn’t battlefield robots that my mind first turned to: It was ordinary robots whose job isn’t to kill people . . . but to kill jobs.

Given the Holy See’s concern for ordinary workers, the impact of robots on the workforce would also be likely to occasion papal remarks.

In fact, I thought, I’d be surprised if there weren’t already papal remarks on job-killing robots.

So I Googled the Vatican web site,


There are already a number of hits. Mostly they aren’t statements issuing from the pope but from different Vatican dicasteries.

There are, however, a couple of statements from John Paul II that deal with—surprise, surprise—the impact of robots on the workforce.

Unfortunately, the Holy See doesn’t have English translations of these addresses up on its web site, but here are Google’s translations:

Address given during a 1983 papal visit to an Italian glass factory.

Papal audience from 1984 on Labor Day.

NOTE: If you’re good with Italian, you can help improve Google’s translation by mousing over the text.