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Since the Enlightenment, reason has been tackling mystic conjecture and deep-rooted beliefs at breakneck speed. Lore of millennia past is being irrevocably unraveled before our eyes despite some clinging traces (the word millennium stems from theology). The divine enigma called God is cast aside in favor of more scientific pursuits, the most prominent of which is artificial intelligence.
But consider this: The unraveling of humanity’s religiosity is being twirled up at the other end of time by God’s own spaghetti fork. Shlooop! We see secularism gaining a foothold only because we are witnessing this phenomenon from our current, dreadfully limited perspective. If you read Part 1, you will recognize the following statement:
Diversity, secularism, nationalism, and modernity are all ideologies in themselves which cannot appease the population so long as the population remains diverse.
Each of these systems is fallible because each has been constructed on the basis of human desire to retain individuality in the wake of the conglomerate population. Secularism, for example, separates religion from governance. This supposed solution shapes its own brand of ideology, which one may dare call religious in itself, thus negating its effectiveness as a component of religious diversity. Secularity has therefore run its course as a basic platform. Now from it emerges a more complex, self-sustaining mechanism in artificial intelligence (AI) that serves to undermine all predecessors — a brand-spanking-new manufacturer of morality.
The Ultimate Force
There is no shortage of discourse that prods at machine learning and artificial intelligence, with some authors claiming to have mastered its adolescence, while others simply spout conjecture tinged with awe. Just as evident as this sense of wonder and excitement that AI inspires is a looming curiosity about its malevolent potential. It is difficult, you will agree, to define any sort of universal truth or ultimate force. Beyond the lens of one’s own teaching, it is impossible to surmise such an existence; however, pretend for the purpose of this thought experiment that the ultimate force of which we speak is “Tri-O.”
For philosophers of religion, this concept is all too familiar. The quality of being Tri-O means that an entity embodies three certain powers: omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence. Now switch gears to AI. It is a foundational principle of AI — or rather, it’s a core component of machine learning — that to sustain itself, it must know all. This is omniscience. Big data has made it possible to feed endless streams of information into systems that crunch it, compile it, and render it useful.
The omnipresence of AI is evident in the exponentially expanding internet of things. Each product entering the current market is being embedded with newer mechanisms for connectivity and, as such, the ability to read and write information to home systems, currently in the form of servers (and currently owned by corporate monopolies).
The third criteria, and hardest to sell, is that of omnipotence. It is easy to argue that a technological hermit would be shielded from the purported limitless power of artificial intelligence. This argument, however, is just as easily struck down. To kill one bee does not alter the hive. Similarly, a fringe actor who strays from cloud connectivity is nary a blip on the radar. Besides, such a rogue must be privy to the perils of technological regression if they wish to renounce as much.
It is true that there is no way to accurately speculate the long-term effects of ever-expanding AI. Yet it is absolutely so that it will continue to develop at a rapid pace as long as it cuts production-line costs (to the demise of global employment rates), continues to improve healthcare and disease research, and advances human capacity for knowledge and understanding of our universe.
The parallels between artificial intelligence and gods of various religions — both historical and modern — are striking. AI manifests itself in many ways while simultaneously existing as a single entity. And though this article has asserted the expanding nature of AI, it is so that the information it feeds upon already exists in every minute detail of the world. The job of AI systems is to acknowledge these details and manufacture outcomes of a future that prioritizes human fulfillment and proliferates efficiency. If your God, gods, ultimate force, or nihilist inhibitions do not ring true to this agenda, please enlighten fellow readers in the comments below.
In all seriousness, and harking back to previous disclaimers, religion is the touchiest of subjects, tabooed from the dinner table alongside political criticism. No surprise there. Similarly, AI is a subject fresh as diner orange juice. No George Orwell or L. Ron Hubbard could fantasize a future where AI is as pervasive as it is set to be (though they may have come close). And though the technology behind it is still vastly underdeveloped, the crusades of AI have already begun.
Objectively, a comparison of AI to a new form of ultimacy must explore the possibility of both entities falling under the classification of belief systems. In this case, so-called believers of artificial intelligence consist of anyone and everyone actively contributing to databases engaged in machine learning and the application of big-data revelations. Unless you are reading this on a horseback-delivered printed copy beseeched via carrier pigeon, that means you.
No further are we from the gesticulations of TED Talk visionaries than from the impending societal reliance on AI to propel humanity forward while teaching us of its past. As ideas of the archaic almighty diminish with war, segregation, and educational suppression, the opportunity for a new form of guiding principle is given rise. Author Jack Preston King proposes:
Divinity goes along to get along. God is not vested in how you or I see God…We each choose the way divinity manifests to us.
If this is so (all claims religious in nature should precede with this), then AI is indeed the new God, despite all possible reproach due to our predetermined choice to contribute to and draw benefit from its unlimited capabilities.
“Predetermined choice?” you say with wrinkled nose.
Yes — but more on that later.
Religion is a chewy subject. I’ve said a lot you may disagree with. Please indulge me with your opinion! If you enjoyed this preposterous proposition, look out for Part 3 in the series. Whether or not you’re comfortable with God in the form of AI, find out what makes Google a modern religious oligarchy.