Is Religion The Next Frontier For AI?

Different civilizations have worshiped many different gods and deities. Science, discovery and new technologies have influenced religion in the past, so will our digital age should birth an AI god?

AI God

AI engineer Anthony Levandowski, who is notoriously at the center of a lawsuit between Uber and Waymo, has filed the paperwork for a new Artificial Intelligence-based religion, Way of the Future. This AI religion’s aim is to ‘contribute to the betterment of society’ through ‘understanding and worship of the (AI) Godhead’, according to the proposal. The WOTF is set to consist of Levandowski as a Dean, and a further small council of advisors.

It’s no surprise that in our increasingly secular society, we’re seeing a rise in new religious movements. Over thousands of years, our planet and different civilizations on it have worshiped many different gods and deities. Science, discovery and new technologies have influenced religion in the past, so is it really all that far-fetched to think that our digital age should birth an AI god?

According to WIRED, Levandowski’s reasoning behind the implementation of an AI godhead is down to transition. He explains that he believes humans rule the planet because they’re smarter than other species on it, so once we create something smarter than ourselves there would naturally be a transition of power.

Arguably, you can also see the beginnings of an AI allegiance of sorts even now in the masses who follow tech giants like Apple and Google ‘religiously’. We put our faith in AI day to day - Alexa, Siri, your SatNav. If Alexa tells you that you need an umbrella that morning, you take it. If your SatNav tells you to take a right, you do.

Technology already knows so much about us. Smart homes operate based on behavioral patterns, it recommends purchases and so on. The more data it gathers, the more processing power available could mean that AI will one day be an omniscient being, able to influence our personal belief systems based on masses of data.

No stranger to warning of the dangers of AI, Elon Musk has made his feelings on an AI deity obvious in a tweet about this. He has also previously stated that such systems are an existential threat to humanity and referred to the development of superhuman intelligence in AI is like ‘summoning the demon’, quite the antithesis of Levandowski’s AI Saviour.

It’s not the first time AI has been thought of in reference to religion. The movement of people known as 'Singulatarians' hold the belief that once we reach the singularity (computer intelligence becomes greater than human), we’ll be able to merge our consciousness into the machine and live forever in digital immortality.

Regardless of the likelihood of the singularity happening anytime soon, it’s obvious that if it does, it will initiate a huge power shift between humans and AI.

Well, possibly not. Vince Lynch, of IV.AI told Venture Beat of the similarities between Artificial Intelligence and the Bible,

“Teaching humans about religious education is similar to the way we teach knowledge to machines: repetition of many examples that are versions of a concept you want the machine to learn.” He goes on to explain that “the concept of teaching a machine to learn … and then teaching it to teach … (or write AI) isn’t so different from the concept of a holy trinity or a being achieving enlightenment after many lessons learned with varying levels of success and failure.”

So, with the ability to write its own scripture, we could well end up with AI-generated ideologies, and could well attract humans to worshipping it as our reliance on AI continues.

There is also a rationale to support that AI could do a better job at looking after the planet than we have done. His church plans to offer everything it develops as open source. As an all-seeing being, capable of unlimited processing power and access to all the data in the world, it could make better decisions on what we need to do to survive and implement them on a larger scale than divided nations can do as they are now.

I’m on the fence on this one but can’t wait to read more on WOTF and what Levandowski has planned for the development of his movement.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!