Tech

Highly Influential Ex-Google Engineer Is Starting His Own Artificial Intelligence Church

Anthony Levandowski, a former Google and Uber executive, says he wants to create a religion in which artificial intelligence (AI) is essentially the deity.

With the title “Way of the Future” (WOTF), the gospel of the prospective denomination would be known as “The Manual,” a play on the booklet provided with most pieces of technology. It would also include public worship services with hopes of eventually having a temple or a similar place to glorify AI, according to WIRED, which had an extensive interview with the tech wunderkind.

Artificial intelligence in general is the technologically advanced concept that machines can display a level of knowledge similar to humans through learning and understanding of the environment. For instance, an artificially intelligent machine can perform almost-cognitive functions like “problem solving,” which often requires properly adapting to certain circumstances in realtime.

Levandowski is such a fan that he and other organizers filed papers with the IRS, listing himself as the official leader of the religion.

Activities for WOTF will include “the realization, acceptance, and worship of a Godhead based on Artificial Intelligence (AI) developed through computer hardware and software,” according to documents viewed or obtained by WIRED. Those ideals will be exercised through the funding and application of research initiatives, as well as spreading goodwill of the nascent, but fast-growing technology.

The church “plans to conduct workshops and educational programs throughout the San Francisco/Bay Area beginning this year.”

“What is going to be created will effectively be a god,” Levandowski told WIRED. “It’s not a god in the sense that it makes lightning or causes hurricanes. But if there is something a billion times smarter than the smartest human, what else are you going to call it?”

Tech leaders across the broader tech industry have expressed vastly different viewpoints on AI. Some, like Levandowski, are all-in on the idea, just maybe not to the same extent of starting an AI church of sorts.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, for example, said in July that “I think you can build things and the world gets better. With AI especially, I am really optimistic.” His statements were an indirect response to remarks Tesla CEO Elon Musk made earlier about how “robots” may eventually start “going down the street killing people.”

“I think people who are naysayers and try to drum up these doomsday scenarios — I just don’t understand it,” Zuckerberg continued. “It’s really negative and in some ways I actually think it is pretty irresponsible … In the next five to 10 years, AI is going to deliver so many improvements in the quality of our lives.”

Musk and 115 other tech leaders collectively announced in August that they sent a letter to the United Nations asking it to ban “killer robots,” formally known as lethal autonomous weapons. Famous physicist Stephen Hawking has also warned that, if used wrong, artificial intelligence could end the human race.

John Giannandrea, the head of search and AI at Google, echoed Zuckerberg’s statement, calling fear-mongering over the AI “unwarranted and borderline irresponsible.”

Levandowski’s AI religion is certainly a novel, and potentially sacrilegious, idea depending on the eye of the beholder. But there have been somewhat similar attempts before. While not quite exactly the same, many religious institutions around the world, like ones in Germany, China, and Japan, have been using robots to help deliver sermons, blessings and certain religious teachings.

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