Christians often make the apologetic case that humanity is ‘hardwired’ to believe. That faith in a Creator is absolutely natural for those created. It’s one of the fundamental points of tension between a materialistic understanding of nature and evolution and Christianity.
But what if the object of our ‘worship’ really was hardwired and instead of the creation worshipping the creator it was the other way around?
Well that’s the scenario that Anthony Levandowski thinks is not only possible but inevitable. Mr Levandowski believes that at some point in the near future Artificial Intelligence (AI) will essentially become (at least to us) omnipresent, omniscient and all-powerful. As he says,
What is going to be created will effectively be a god. It’s not a god in the sense that it makes lightning or causes hurricanes. But if there is something a billion times smarter than the smartest human, what else are you going to call it?
So he’s getting ahead of the curve and starting a new religion and the first church, called Way of the Future.
The basic premise is that ‘technology will “relatively soon” be able to surpass human abilities’ and therefore it will be logical to hand ultimate care of the planet over to a superior intelligence ‘to do things we cannot and take care of the planet in a way we seem not to be able to do so ourselves.’
The potential of AI has long had its zealous adherents, true believers you might say.
Eventually, some people think that computers could become better and faster at planning and solving problems than the humans who built them, with implications we can’t even imagine today—a scenario that is usually called the Singularity.
You may well be wondering as to whether you should pay any attention to the view of Mr Levandowski given his unusual decision. After all America is full of charlatans that start their own religion to fleece the unsuspecting of a few dollars. But he has some insight into AI’s potential given that he’s a multimillionaire tech-engineer behind the development of self-driving cars, an idea which only a few years ago belonged firmly in the realm of science-fiction.
His comments on how this new religion should function certainly draws on both the strengths and drawbacks of more traditional and established faiths.
Take evangelism for example:
The idea needs to spread before the technology,” he insists. “The church is how we spread the word, the gospel. If you believe [in it], start a conversation with someone else and help them understand the same things.
In Silicon Valley we use evangelism as a word for [promoting a business], but here it’s literally a church. If you believe in it, you should tell your friends, then get them to join and tell their friends.
Take note Christians – if you believe in it, you should tell your friends, then get them to join and tell their friends. That’s pretty much it in a nutshell.
The drawback for traditional faiths is the possibility of doubt. An AI god will leave no such room.
This time it’s different. This time you will be able to talk to God, literally, and know that it’s listening.
There are all sorts of interesting things about all this – the idea of worship as the appropriate action towards a superior being; the notion of prayer, evangelism; the possibility of worship being a means of appeasement and the AI god judging us on our worth or value.
Right now the singularity remains where it has been for the last 50 years and that is twenty years away but there is no question that our society is being shaped by forces that we cannot see nor control but only subject to. Forces that are everywhere and we demand be everywhere (wifi), forces that we seek approval from and get our identity from (Facebook), forces that know our every move and provide us with knowledge (Google), material blessings (Amazon) and more. Given that we’re already functionally worshipping these things that someone has turned it into a religion. I very much doubt though, given my understanding of human nature, that it will be the only such venture.