The President of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, sent a letter to the Holy Father Pope Francis on Wednesday, January 31, 2024, joining the pontiff in calling for greater regulation of artificial intelligence, reaffirming what she 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 January 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.
According to Bloomberg, Taiwan is a vital player in the global development of artificial intelligence. The growth in demand for accelerator chips produced by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., which is the country’s largest company — and the world’s second-most-valuable semiconductor company — has helped fuel an economic rebound for the island.
Investing and developing AI tools also plays a critical role in maintaining the country’s national security apparatus amid growing threats of military intervention and economic sanctions from Beijing, China.
President Tsai Ing-wen, the first female president of Taiwan, highlighted these themes and underscored the broader ethical considerations of developing emerging technologies in her letter to the Holy Father.
“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,” the president wrote.
“For Taiwan, as for other democracies, one major challenge has been disinformation campaigns,” she 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 Francis’ message marking the 57th World Day of Peace, a celebration that is annually observed by the Catholic Church on January 1, the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.
Pope Francis’ message for the 2024 World Day of Peace was titled “Artificial Intelligence and Peace.” In it, he 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 December 14, 2023, letter underscored the risks posed by artificial intelligence 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,” he argued.
In his letter, the Holy Father stressed that artificial intelligence 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 Holy See is a vital diplomatic partner for Taipei, Taiwan, as it is the only sovereign European entity that still maintains diplomatic relations with the democratically governed island.