Yesterday we concluded the 28th General Assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life by addressing the topic of emerging and converging technologies, which after all Pope Francis explicitly mentions in his Letter Humana Communitas, which he wrote to us for the 25th anniversary of the Pontifical Academy.
Emerging and converging technologies challenge our mindsets and the way our knowledge is structured. They first of all bring out the connection between knowledge and different kinds of technologies. But, at a more fundamental level, they highlight with particular force the mutual interaction between human beings and the environment: every change in one acts on the others, so they always evolve together. Therefore, transforming the environment in its many natural, cultural, technological dimensions also always means transforming ourselves. We need to consider these aspects more carefully to better take into account the complexity of phenomena and avoid abstract classifications between personal and artificial, between human and technological, between different living forms in the biosphere. Only in this way will we be able to adopt an approach that will allow us to understand and develop a relationship with machines that does not follow the logic of man being replaced by machine, but rather that of effective cooperation.
Pope Francis greatly emphasizes this perspective, when he states that the whole is greater than the parts, that reality is greater than the idea, that everything is interconnected, that ecology is integral, that knowledge is multifaceted and transdisciplinarity cannot be disregarded.
The context is reference to the common good. That is, we need to avoid a perspective that pits general interest and individual rights against each other, as if the promotion of one is at the expense of the others. Rather, the way is to think and promote them together, with the understanding that they are mutually supportive. This is true not only in terms of quality of care and effectiveness of health care systems, but also in the very practice of informed consent, which cannot be considered only as an expression of the individual’s freedom, since it requires practical conditions of an intersubjective nature, dependent on the many social expressions in which the individual’s personality unfolds.
As believers we are also called to a wholly special vigilance over the drama of the use of new technologies placed at the service of ever larger and more sophisticated destructive operations. What is happening on several war fronts reminds us of this with increasing force. Even the sad occasion of the first anniversary of the war in Ukraine reminds us that we cannot be content with denouncing the horrors of this conflict and other forgotten conflicts around the world. We are called to do everything in our power to stop their continuation and to avert their premise. We must overcome the sort of mental laziness that hinders the search for alternative ways of self-defense and conflict resolution that seek to speak to the conscience of the enemy and not to put him down with violence that compels him only from the outside.
Regarding the way in which the work was carried out, I would like to emphasize the importance of the audience with Pope Francis and the suggestions he wanted to give us. The inspiring debate in the Workshop and then in the phase reserved for the Academicians involved many good arguments and indications that we will take into account as the Board of Directors.
Finally, I want to point out that this Assembly celebrated the Second Edition of the “Guardian of Life” Award. In 2021, it was awarded to the American Dale Recinella, a lay chaplain on Florida’s death row. This 2023 edition gave the Award to Dr. Magdalen Awor, a nurse, a collaborator of the Association “Doctors with Africa-CUAMM” in Uganda. As reads the motivation for the award, this award is given “in recognition of outstanding service on behalf of nascent life in some of the most deprived areas on the African continent.” Thank you to Dr. Awor present here in the Press Room and to the Association Doctors with Africa-CUAMM.