President of Taiwan Joins Pope Francis in Call for Regulating AI

Taiwan is a vital player in the global development of AI.

Pope Francis said he welcomes the regulation of artificial intelligence so that it might contribute to a better world.
Pope Francis said he welcomes the regulation of artificial intelligence so that it might contribute to a better world. (photo: everythingpossible / Shutterstock)

President of Taiwan Tsai Ing-wen sent a letter to Pope Francis on Wednesday joining the pontiff in calling for greater regulation of artificial intelligence, reaffirming what Ing-wen said was Taiwan’s commitment “to promote peace and improve the quality of life of all humanity.” 

Noting that Taiwan “is eager to work with the international community to build a more stable society,” the Jan. 31 letter reflected on the country’s position as a “​​world leader in the semiconductor industry.”

“As the wave of AI sweeps across the world, Taiwan will continue in its endeavor to be a highly reliable, effective, and secure partner in the international community,” the president continued. 

Taiwan is a vital player in the global development of AI. The growth in demand for accelerator chips produced by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., the country’s largest company — and the world’s second-most-valuable semiconductor company — has helped fuel an economic rebound for the island, according to Bloomberg

Investing and developing AI tools also plays a critical role in maintaining Taiwan’s national security apparatus amid growing threats of military intervention and economic sanctions from Beijing.

Tsai highlighted these themes and underscored the broader ethical considerations of developing emerging technologies in her letter to the Pope. 

“As Your Holiness has warned, the growing scope of AI applications and its implications for human values engender grave ethical risks, such as invasion of privacy, data manipulation, and illegal surveillance, which all have serious consequences for free and democratic societies,” she wrote. 

“For Taiwan, as for other democracies, one major challenge has been disinformation campaigns,” the president continued. “Taiwan will deepen cooperation with the Holy See across many areas as we work toward exercising good technological governance, maintaining social harmony and stability, and jointly creating a peaceful future for humanity.”

Tsai sent the letter in response to the Pope’s message marking the 57th World Day of Peace, a celebration that is observed by the Catholic Church on Jan. 1, the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. 

The Pope’s message for the 2024 World Day of Peace was titled “Artificial Intelligence and Peace.” In it, the pontiff called on policymakers and international stakeholders to direct the development of AI toward “the pursuit of peace and the common good.”

The pope in his Dec. 14 letter underscored the risks posed by AI with its usage in automated warfare as well as the bias it can effect when used in the job hiring process, mortgage applications, and even criminal recidivism. These “systemic errors can easily multiply,” the pope argued.

The Holy Father stressed that AI is a supplemental technology as it can only “imitate or reproduce certain functions of human intelligence,” adding that “the unique human capacity for moral judgment and ethical decision-making is more than a complex collection of algorithms, and that capacity cannot be reduced to programming a machine, which as ‘intelligent’ as it may be, remains a machine.” 

The ethical regulation and orientation of AI for the common good has been a common theme of Francis’ pontificate in recent years. In a Feb. 20, 2023, audience with the Pontifical Academy for Life, the pope urged the academy to study emerging technologies in order to “ensure that scientific and technological growth is reconciled more and more with a parallel development … in responsibility, values, and conscience.”

The Holy See is a vital diplomatic partner for Taipei as it is the only sovereign European entity that maintains diplomatic relations with the democratically governed island. 

Formal diplomatic relations between the Republic of China (ROC) and the Holy See were officially established in 1942. However, following the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949 and the establishment of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the government of the Republic of China relocated to the island of Taiwan, which sits 110 miles off mainland China’s Southeastern coast. The Holy See, at present, does not maintain official diplomatic relations with the PRC.

Taiwan, or the Republic of China, currently maintains diplomatic relations with 12 states after the Pacific island nation of Narua severed relations on Jan. 15, two days after presidential elections in Taiwan, which saw the election of Lai Ching-te, the current vice president and staunch advocate for Taiwanese sovereignty.

Cardinal-elect Víctor Manuel Fernández was appointed by Pope Francis on July 1, 2023, to become the next prefect for the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.

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