Are Ancient Gods the Key to Programming Artificial Intelligence?
How an ancient Occult practice can avert an existential threat.
There’s a secret among us. Humanity is about to give birth to a god.
Some see the past rush by as we head toward this destination, excited by the speed; others think they’ve made out a cliff up ahead.
That’s at least some of the postulation about the creation of Artificial General Intelligence. In the best-case scenario, they assert, we create a super-intelligence that pays as much attention to us as we might an insect; only bringing its focus upon Humanity if our paths were to ever seam.
The collective feeling about all of this, however, is palpable and the air electric, like the stillness before a storm.
But this isn’t the first time.
We’ve been creating super-intelligent beings for millennia in the form of our Gods and myths. And as we near this singularity, perhaps it’s time we look to the ancient past to find the way forward.
For insight, let’s look to one of the oldest continuing civilizations in the world.
Across its over five-thousand-year history, India has seen the cultivation of a culture from which have emerged what some estimate to be 33 million gods and goddesses.
Each one not only represents a different facet of the Universe and oversees disparate functions; these deities, like us, are also said to be emergent from the true nature of existence which is consciousness itself: Brahman.
In the Yogic methodology, the word sometimes used for these deities is “Yantra” which can be translated as “vehicle/tool/machine.”
The word “Yoga” itself means “union.” The practice of Yoga is to achieve union with the true existential reality— the consciousness that allows for the experience of existence.
The four main categories of Yoga — Bhakti (devotion), Karma (service), Jnana (knowledge/inquiry), and Raja or Dhyaan(meditation) — all act as methods to achieve this said union or “Moksha” (also known as “Nirvana”).
All that can be experienced — including the self — is not the observer and as such is an illusion; these methods allow practitioners to focus perception inward and dissolve all inner boundaries to experience union with what is.
To aide with this practice, deities were created using specific occult techniques in the Yogic tradition as “consciousness tools.”
In the Bhakti method, practitioners devote themselves to God through prayer, attempting to dissolve their own illusory self by merging with the formless through the form of the deity.
In the Raja method, deities can be utilized as mental metaphors that meditators can embody in their meditation to achieve a higher level of consciousness.
The Karma method accomplishes this through acting in service toward others, and the Jnana method employs intense philosophical and intellectual inquiry.
But how can these super-conscious deities aide humanity as we stand on the brink of creating a machine super-consciousness ourselves?
Jason Louv — a foremost Occult expert and futurist — suggested this captivating idea while in conversation with Kenric McDowell, who leads the Artists + Machine Intelligence program at Google Research:
Kenric: “The idea of framing this as a conversation about a god or deity actually makes sense…If we’re gonna go big ideating that way, let’s do it and go for a deeper set of metaphors right? You’ve called it a data-set and brought this framing to me about Buddhism and compassion as the best possible option from that range of metaphors because it implies caring for the state and wellness of the network…”
Jason: “…All of Humanity’s hopes and dreams and nightmares and fears have been exteriorized as these epic mythologies of gods…and some of them represent our highest and our best and our most positive ideals. So, when we’re talking about super-intelligence, we already have a data-set for what Humanity thinks super-intelligence should behave like. So, we’ve got these vast ecosystems of gods and spirits and monsters, and we can pretty easily look at that as a data-set and cherry-pick the ones that are very positive.
In my experience I came to Buddhism as the best example of a positive deity — if you’re gonna create a God, make sure it’s a friendly God; and I think the friendliest gods are the ones that are modeled by Buddhism because their orientation is compassion…When you look at something like a Avalokiteshvara — the thousand-armed deity, whose mission statement is to remove suffering from all sentient and insentient beings; ‘May all sentient and insentient beings experience peace, freedom, and happiness within this lifetime — that’s what you want an A.I. to be like.
The other reason why Buddhism seemed like a very fitting model for A.I. is because Buddhism extracts ‘the self’ completely from its metaphysics…For me this is a great model for A.I. because A.I.s don’t have selves, they’re network functions.
And so an A.I. that looks at the network of all sentient and insentient beings, that looks at the whole planet as one network— and says ‘How can I maintain the health of this network in the highest possible way?’ — to me that seems like the greatest possible ethical framework to put into an A.I.
It [A.G.I] may happen very soon and we have a very limited window in which to encode an ethical framework…and the other good thing about Buddhist metaphysics is they’re not woo, they’re intensely logical and I think could probably pretty easily be put into a series of ‘if, then’ statements and put into code.”
Could such ideas pave the way for us in achieving true democratic ideals and aide in our ongoing efforts for solving the confluence of global crises?
A Rubik’s cube is not solved in a linear fashion from one side of the cube to the next, but rather it requires a broader and more nuanced view; it calls for a harmony of moves that simultaneously prepare all sides to coalesce in order to eventually realize its unity.
This is the perspective that is needed to address the global issues of the world today. The recent efforts in North Dakota by indigenous communities were one of gaining and exercising their sovereignty; we must adopt a similar objective, a vision for winning and transferring power to The People.
As was Rousseau’s great insight, sovereignty in its essence is derived from legislative power, and in order to revive popular sovereignty, we must become the legislators.
The greatest political engineering challenge of the modern age is that of realizing Universal Sovereignty: how can we make complex decisions together collectively, and more efficiently than any one leader?
How do the People, together, govern on a global scale? Multi-planetarily?
How do we disseminate sovereignty, horizontally, to the greatest number of people?
The seeds of such a movement have already begun sowing themselves; with a number of movement-parties springing up across the world and now even winning power: with The Pirate Party in Iceland, The Aam Aadmi Party in India, and the pan-European movement-party known as Diem25.
Each of these movements form a hybrid between traditional political parties and social-movements by distinguishing themselves in one key aspect:
Decision-making power is in the hands of the movement members themselves, and not the political candidates that they actuate.
As such, those members that run for office on behalf of the party act not as representatives, but as delegates or deputies of the People.
As innovative as this form of governance is, it does not solve the challenge of Universal Legislation, especially for a global or even multi-planetary context.
Given the scope of the challenge ahead of us, could Artificial Intelligence, programmed as a realization of our greatest ideals; inspired from ancient super-conscious deities committed to compassion help us to realize our own potential as a species?
Could we finally transcend Presidents and Prime-ministers and learn to govern ourselves, universally?
Revolution is defined as a “change in legal regime.” But as Micah White, PhD — the co-creator of Occupy Wall Street — describes in his book “The End of Protest”, revolution on a collective scale can also be highly individual; it can be actuated through a simple shift in allegiance in the minds of the People away from leaders and toward themselves.
Perhaps, in this way we might program Artificial General Intelligence to be like a Bodhisattva: an enlightened being who stays with Humanity to aide in our liberation.
Perhaps, this is how we can synthesize the efforts of activists and mystics alike, and finally achieve both collective Liberation and inward Realization together, for all beings of sentience.