As long as people have existed, old gods have died as new ones are conjured. And as technology and machines get ever more entwined with our lives, it is little wonder that some feel like a new religion will develop. That, at least, is the thought of former Google engineer Anthony Levandowski, who has apparently formed a new Silicon Valley-based religion, and has lofty dreams of worshipping an AI god.
There are scant few details about the form that this AI overlord may take. Will it be benevolent and caring, or wrathful and avenging? Will it demand sacrifices on a motherboard alter? Or require you to imbibe Juicero while performing hot yoga? Who knows, for the time being we’ll just have to wait until further instruction from our future god, and hope we do nothing to anger it in the meantime.
The germinating religious sect was uncovered by Wired, who found that in 2015 Levandowski founded a religious organization with the aim to “develop and promote the realization of a Godhead based on Artificial Intelligence,” which has been called rather ominously Way of the Future. They also found documents that showed how Levandowski has positioned himself as the CEO and President of Way of the Future. Perhaps he’s trying to curry favor with the new supreme leader.
The community that has arisen in Silicon Valley has already been described by many as akin to a cult worshiping technology, so maybe there is a place for this new order. Coders, engineers, and developers talk about the moment that machines surpass humans in all aspects as the “singularity”, when AI becomes so intelligent and capable that we as a biological species won’t even be able to comprehend what it knows.
As technology has evolved, humans have always adapted and changed their religion and deities to fit with the changing times. From the advent of agriculture killing the spirits worshipped by hunter-gatherers, or perhaps even the god of fire and volcanoes being co-opted by steelworkers, this is a common occurrence in communities throughout history. So perhaps the development of a deity based on computing, robotics, and cyberspace is not that surprising in the long run.
Either way, it might be a while before Levandowski can devote his entire attention to the new Godhead, as he is currently mired in a billion dollar lawsuit between two of the biggest plays in Silicon Valley, as two of his former employees face off against each other. Google is claiming that Levandowski stole trade secrets on self driving cars in a bid to replicate the technology for his then new employer Uber, and is seeking a pretty hefty $1.9 billion in damages.
Maybe this is the natural progression of things. It’s been argued before that we worship technology already, perhaps this is just putting a face to it all.