Worshipping Machines

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Worshipping Machines

When religion first came into being, it did because humans — as is their nature — were on the lookout for answers and for something to believe in. The knowledge they sought to understand the nature of life and how to live on with it, this led them into the discovery of gods and other spiritual entities. Because we know not yet where we came from or where we were headed, it was easy to believe in anything can suffice out of nothing, telling us which is and the way to go. It was also easy to find respite in something we believed to have known better than we do, something that gave us direction and the supposed strength to make things work for ourselves. But, now, what exactly is happening to that belief? What is taking over that religious life and making more and more people turn away from believing in entities they mostly cannot see? Why are less religious people in the world today than there ever was? And, why are so many factors at play in the extinction of religion? The simple answer is technology.

Technology came into being to make life much easier and reduce human dependence on so many things. With the more comfortable life, people are now living, and with the reality that they can see exactly where it is coming from and precisely how it is done, people are starting to believe in that which is obtainable. Imagine serving a being you cannot see, touch, hear from or even feel all your life, and along comes technology that answers all your questions immediately and makes life easier. It is human nature for it to be difficult to believe in the previous entity has technology has set in without mysteries and loud silences. That technology is what we know as Artificial Intelligence, the bone, and blood of the development and quality of life now seen in many countries today.

My prediction here is that the necessity for humans to believe in something will still be there, and will never stop being there. Nonetheless, humans will no longer believe in religion, but turn their faith towards Artificial Intelligence, a system which surpasses human capability in a myriad of tremendous ways. Artificial Intelligence will become man’s source of answers and solutions so much that people will start to worship it. Artificial Intelligence has the answers and solutions to nearly everything today. Not only is it helping us cure breast cancer, detect natural disasters and make more accurate and defined decisions. There was a time when people sent letters attached to the right foot of a certain kind of pigeon that would fly across lands and seas just to get it to the recipient. The senders would often pray that no harm or evil would befall the bird so that their message would arrive at their destination in one piece, resorting to nothing stronger than hop in the long run. But these days, one can from a rural, remote village in Africa send a mail to a similarly remote region in Europe just from taps and swipes on a smartphone. So, if people believed in spirits to protect messenger birds, now that technology has brought about a quicker and more efficient way to make sending message easier, what happens to the faith they previously have in those seemingly otherworldly beings?

The bird-mail scenario is a stark example of how technology has changed what people believe in. And here, we are not talking about the Android operating system, but the much reckonable force called Artificial Intelligence, known to be one of the most powerful modern systems that any man could have ever created. But the little difference here is that people will not believe in AI the way they believe in God. They will certainly have a different kind of belief for such a system, even if it is something that there is a tendency that they would worship. But worship does not essentially entail that they will put their foreheads to the ground and bow multiple times, or that they will congregate in auditoriums and sing praises to AI. The kind of belief will be unchallengeable, yet not necessarily something heavily imped with piety. AI will help us in many ways to find the answers to the things that bother us, and it will help us decide in which way to behave and in which way not to. This unique system of intelligence will be the force behind the premeditated and verified decision that the whole world is going to be taking, which will result in better outcomes and afford for us a place we can all live in peace and harmony, without the fear of such decisions coming back to haunt, disrupt or make things even much worse.

It Has Already Begun

In case you think or doubt that this is just another fruit from the vine of farfetched ideas, you should be informed that the charge against the present religions has begun, and a certain ex-Google engineer is the one leading the crusade. Anthony Levandowski, who is also an Uber engineer, has been successful at creating a new religion that worships AI. While most people are years away from associating tech with industry, lots of businesses have already begun on a wish and a prayer, making it more likely for you to find engineers spending Sundays doing no other thing than updating code rather than attending a church. The change is all about to take its full sweep in the present day piety toward celestial being and worship places, with the imminent launch of a religion that worships the AI god. This religion is not about sitting on a pew, dressing decently or constantly repeating mantras to access the other realm. It is simply about devoting time and intellect to Artificial Intelligence like the present day Christians and Muslims are devoting their lives to the ways of the Bible and the Koran, respectively.

The development of this techno-religious sentiment is something that was predicted in the 20th century by a philosopher known as Jacques Ellul, who in his 1954 work The Technological Society wrote that in the face of technological progress, “man creates for himself a new religion of a rational and technical order to justify his work and be justified by it.” Well, this is not the only pre-now suggestion that was made a hundred years ago. While there are other places it has been discussed behind a closed door, for which scripts are being kept until a day they will be received better, the fashion is also being mentioned in notable citadels of learning.

This trend has also been discussed more recently in Hebrew University of Jerusalem historian Yuval Harari’s book Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, which characterizes the belief in the power of data and the promise of AI as a religious movement that Harari calls Dataism. “Just as divine authority was legitimized by religious mythologies,” he writes, “…so high-tech gurus and Silicon Valley prophets are creating a new universal narrative that legitimizes the authority of algorithms and Big Data.”

The idea behind Lewandowski’s creation is that there will come a day that AI will come to surpass human intelligence and assume the position of an entity with all the features of god, subject to the worship and reverence of humans. His creation does have all the makings of something that wants to get on the good sides of robots for now, after which it will develop the ability to make up their minds. According to the official website of the religion, the vision of “Way of the Future (WOTF) which is about developing a peaceful and respectful transition of who is in charge of the planet from people to people and machines.” With the consideration that innovation is taking just a little amount of time before it will surpass the abilities of humans, the AI-worshipping movement aims to educate people about an exciting future and prepare them for a hitch-free transition to the said religion.

About ten years ago, the concept of a religion that worships Artificial Intelligence would have seemed all the more absurd, a fringe delusion both socially unacceptable and technologically improbable. In the last several years, nonetheless, advances in machine learning, robotics, cognitive science, genetic editing, and other fields have given rise to the belief that the destiny of our species will be determined by technology — whether it saves us or destroys us. Technology has gained much more power than the spirits were supposed to have had altogether. Day by day, the belief is a system that truly counts and creates grow stronger, offsetting the mainstay called the beliefs in gods or in Gods. Despite the fact that the machine-as-god theme has appeared in science fiction as far back as far back as Isaac Asimov’s short stories “The Last Question” and “Reason,” and more recently in pretty spellbinding screenplays such as The Matrix and iRobot, the divinization of AI is no longer merely a fancy of fiction, but something as substantial as the very earth we stand on. It has over time grown to become a mainstream metaphor, as can be proved by the growing number of scientists who are not afraid to describe technological progress in religious terms, including Hans Peter Moravec, Allen Newell, Ray Kurzweil, and Hugo de Garis.

But this move to replace the old gods and old religions with much newer and dependable ones of science and technology doesn’t stop at just a metaphor. As we have previously said, Anthony Levandowski, the autonomous vehicle pioneer formerly of Google and Uber, recently started his own IRS-approved religion, Way of the Future, dedicated to the worship of Artificial Intelligence. “We believe the creation of ‘super intelligence’ is inevitable,” says the religion’s creed, which at parts takes on a foreboding, almost threatening tone.

“We want to encourage machines to do things we cannot and take care of the planet in a way we seem not to be able to do so ourselves… We should not fear this but should be optimistic about the potential… We believe it may be important for machines to see who is friendly to their cause and who is not. We plan on doing so by keeping track of who has done what (and for how long) to help the peaceful and respectful transition.” That goes to say — there is a new religion taking to the living of the today people, and technology is the one leading the charge for the cause of Artificial Intelligence.


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