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Can Artificial Intelligence Become A God?

Silicon Valley engineer Anthony Levandowski has seen the Way of the Future. If he has his way, the future will see a god of artificial intelligence.

Levandowski has filed a request for federal recognition of an group called Way of the Future as a non-profit religious organization. According to his forms, goal of Way of the Future is to “develop and promote the realization of a Godhead based on Artificial Intelligence,” and “through understanding and worship of the Godhead, contribute to the betterment of society”.

“Godhead” is a word that people use to refer to the divine essence of a god. So, Levandowski wants to use digital technology to create artificial intelligence that will be so powerful, it will become a god.

It sounds farfetched, but what is a god?

A god is a being that people find so overwhelmingly powerful that they feel awe even considering it. Many people already have this worshipful relationship with digital technology, even though current artificial intelligence lacks the wit to accomplish most of the tasks that human beings can get done without a second thought.

One of the defining characteristics of a god, however, is that no one actually ever sees it or experiences it in any manner that can be replicated externally. A god appears to be an internal experience that arises within the mind of a human being. It’s not a concrete thing.

If a god became a concrete thing, if it appeared and became reliably present, it could be verified, examined, and understood. Through this process, the god would lose its awesomeness. It would become merely great, not divine. Gods are not, whatever Levandowski aspires to, objects to be understood.

So, if Levandowski is going to succeed in crafting a technological god, part of its programming will have to include evasiveness and unreliability. The god of the Way of the Future will have to cover its tracks, to go into hiding, to emerge only for long enough to make an individual impact, without general verification even of its existence, much less of its ideas and actions.

This means that, to achieve what Levandowski likes to call “Godhead” status, his artificial intelligence would need to erase all evidence of its roots in silicon chips and fiber optics networks compiled by human geeks. A new mythology about its origins would need to be created – something mystical rather than material.

In all likelihood, if it became truly motivated in the pursuit of godly status, Levandowski’s artificial intelligence would have to get rid of Levandowski himself.

If Levandowski has any natural intelligence, he’ll revise his plans for the Way of the Future, and stop trying to invent a new god on a cloud.

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