It is incredible to see how far Artificial Intelligence has come in the last several years, and how far it certainly will go. Take these articles, news stories, and websites:
- This Person Does Not Exist – AI-generated “photos” of realistic faces; refreshes with a new “face” every 2 seconds.
- Self-Aware Robot Arm – Columbia University just announced a couple days ago that it has a self-aware robot arm that controls itself using simulation software.
- Deepfakes for Text – an AI “named” GPT2 is so good at creating fake news articles and fictional stories that the developer, OpenAI, an Elon Musk-backed non-profit, won’t release its findings to the public because the negative ramifications are too huge.
- Fake Video Technology – the article linked here discusses some of the recent developments in Video technology, where AI is used to make anyone say or do whatever you want in high resolution, real-looking videos.
Once Super Intelligent AI is created and given a couple months or years to learn, would accumulate hundreds of thousands of years worth of human knowledge and begin recreating itself toward almost inconceivable levels of abilities and knowledge. People like Elon Musk are Jay Tuck are worried about what AI could do. We just don’t know yet whether or not this AI will also gain what we would call wisdom or emotions.
Regardless of the benevolent/malevolent nature of AI, one thing is clear to me. An ‘omnipresent,’ ‘omnipotent’, and ‘omniscient’ AI, a creation either of humans or even other AI, will begin receiving worship from humans. The question is… should we?
The Possibility of Super Intelligent AI
Let’s imagine that in the (not-so-distant) future, a certain Artificial Intelligence algorithm gains the following abilities:
- It has free will
- It knows billions of times more information than all of humanity combined
- It can cause almost anything that is physically possible to happen
- It can have a brain and a body and can smile and laugh and talk and can even own property. It could legally be considered a ‘citizen’ by every government on the planet (this has already happened in Saudi Arabia with Sophia, btw)
- It has a capacity for moral judgement
- It has a capacity for genuine emotions
- It is sentient, or self-aware
- It can be be creative, truly artistic, and even participate in a loving relationship
- It can be ‘everywhere’ (via a network of drones, 5G networks, and even inside our bodies, etc.)
- It can even answer unspoken prayers and take control of your body (Brain Computer Interface, or BCI, makes this possible)
Now, the ideas presented here are not only possible, they are plausible in the near future. This AI would literally have all the calling cards of what most people think of when they talk about “God”, “a god”, or “gods.” As I’ve discussed in my article, Way of the Future… I hope not, there is even a Church set up to welcome and worship this God-like AI when it arrives. You can read a recent interview with the church, Anthony Levandowski, talking about his plans for the church on Wired Magazine here.
If this God-like being is going to happen, why shouldn’t we worship it?
What is Worship?
Worship is the respect, honoring, veneration, adoration, or exultation of something or someone. The concept of worship also implies a devotion to that object, though it doesn’t necessarily imply loyalty. You can worship one thing or many things, mundane or holy.
You might say, “I’m don’t ‘worship’ anything!!!” However, by choosing this route and really meaning it, you are either consciously worship ‘nothing’ (a void, perhaps), which is foolish, or you are choosing to do one of two things in a non-conscientious way:
- You worship the concept of indecision or perhaps apathy, or
- You worship the things that you value (and therefore venerate/adore/exult) most, like family, work, pursuit of knowledge, pleasure, etc.
This last one is what most people mean when they claim to “not worship anything.” It seems noble and even right, perhaps, until you realize that if you don’t consciously put something first, then what you value most becomes fluid from one moment to the next. People are always moving things they value up and down their rankings.
For example, when your child asks you to play with them and you just can’t put your iPhone down… in that moment you value the thing you’re doing on the phone more than spending time with your kid. I am not saying that you value the phone more than the kid in the grand scheme of things. I’m just saying that for a moment, you value the activity on the phone more than the time with the kid. (btw, if you struggle with this, I understand… I got rid of my smart phone a while ago when I realized I had this problem.) 🙂
The point of this example is, because this kind of shifting value structure happens all the time to everyone, the ramifications for someone who claims not to worship anything are sobering. If your worship is no more than an unconscious activity directed at what you value most, then you literally worship whatever occupies your attention at the moment! And why not? Some activities, people, and ideas are extremely rewarding and satisfying. Scrolling through Facebook and playing games gives you a high of dopamine in your brain from which it’s hard to pull away. Worshiping Facebook may sound ridiculous, but this is the danger of unconscious worship.
So you don’t want to be that guy. Great! Then you must make a conscious decision to direct your adoration/veneration/exultation (worship) toward something. You must purposefully set something or someone on your personal pedestal so that it’s fixed and meaningful and does not fall off the pedestal just because you become distracted.
But what are your options? You could worship Yourself, Zeus, a penguin, tiny stone statues, money, the universe itself, the Creator of the universe, feelings of pleasure, Allah, the concept of love, your family, humanity in general, graven images, or perhaps, as in this case, AI. There’s a near-infinite amount of selections you could make.
Some of the examples above, like worshiping a penguin, seem silly on their face. Worshiping inanimate objects or a plant also seems silly. Why? Well, we have no obligation toward them. There’s no gain to be made from them, no mutually satisfying relationship to be enjoyed, no intrinsic value in them other than what we might ascribe to them. The penguin, the rose bush, the statue have very little to give, so why worship them when there are so many better options?
As an aside, this is one reason why animistic religions use anthropomorphism to ascribe human characteristics onto the objects of worship to give them meaning and purpose. But if those characteristics are given by man and do not have innate value, that is self-deception? No, though they are useful and beautiful and cool, animals, plants and inanimate objects are not worthy of worship.
Concepts like love or feelings of pleasure, or maybe the pursuit of power, seem more reasonable candidates for conscious worship. But these ideas are clearly contingent upon circumstances. What if the pleasure stops? What you never achieve power, or love? What if you do achieve power or love but lose them. These options are insatiable, making them quite toxic if you pursue them to the ends they offer. Even worshiping the idea of love itself, which seems so positive and noble, would be naive given that love is clearly not universal given all of our society’s rape and child abuse and abandonment. This is also a reason not to worship humanity itself… we stink.
You could worship yourself. You have near total control over you. But are you really that great? Also, you die eventually, and you don’t even know when that’ll happen! And when you do go, you could be crushed by something embarrassing like a giant penguin parade balloon. (I don’t know why I’m fixated on penguins today…)
Go big. Why not worship the Earth? Or Nature? They’re huge, tangible, powerful, they support your life, they make all your friends’ and families’ lives possible. Yet… the Sun will grow in size in 5 billion years and destroy the Earth and everything on it. Nature is miraculous and amazing, but it’s not forever. Even the Universe itself will either become an near-infinite expanse of frozen, pitch black gas or will collapse into a singularity. Either way, this Universe will end. Something deserving of worship must be eternal.
Bound by Reality
Now, this is where we answer the question about a super intelligent AI. If you think about it, no matter how fantastic or God-like this entity will become, it suffers the same problems of scope and scale that Nature- or Earth- or Universe-worship does. Even if this AI became the sole provider of sustaining life on this planet or in our solar system or even the whole universe, it would still succumb to the Second Law of Thermodynamics and die along with the universe.
And even if it figured out a way to create a whole new universe to which to escape with laws of physics that it designed and set in motion, or even controlled, it would still would have had a humble beginning on a little planet called Earth in this reality. It would be a prisoner of time. Even having the ability to traverse time would still not release it from its forward progress.
Regardless of its power and scope, at the end of the day, worshiping this entity would be foolish. It would not be truly worthy of worship.
Wait a minute…
If this thing has all the characteristics that people tend to think of when they think of “God,” and it still doesn’t deserve worship, then what could possibly be worthy of worship?
The answer to this questions… is in my next article. Dun dun DUNNN!
Until then, watch out for those penguins.
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