If you’re a fan of the popular CBS sitcom, The Big Bang Theory, you’ve probably heard of an event called the Singularity. You may remember the scene where Sheldon meticulously attempts to plot out his life in an attempt to line it up with the event.
Sheldon described the Singularity as the moment when humans would be able to insert their consciousness within a machine and attain immortality. While that’s one way to understand the Singularity (a la Johnny Depp’s Transcendence), it is not the only way.
When scientists and technology moguls discuss the Singularity, they typically conceive of the moment when computers will start to exceed human abilities in intelligence to the point that they will develop the ability to process information and learn at an exponential rate.
If you haven’t heard much talk about the Singularity (outside of the occasional pop-culture reference), it’s probably because you don’t spend time in the right circles (perhaps I should say you spend all your time in the Right circles). Conservative and religious commentators don’t dedicate all that much time to the subject, but it’s a nearly perpetual point of discussion in the Liberal, elite crowd.
Christians, or any who take a general interest in religion, might want to make sure they start paying attention to talk about the Singularity.
News broke recently of a Silicon Valley software engineer who has sought to start his own church. Given the emphasis on church planting among many Christian denominations, this might not sound so odd. This tech genius, however, was not looking to create a house of worship to Jehovah, Jesus, Allah, or even Krishna or the Buddha.
His deity of choice? Artificial intelligence.
Anthony Levandowski, who has recently found himself in the middle of a legal battle over self-driving car technology, initiated the process of creating his church in 2015.
Levandowski’s church, named Way of the Future, seeks to “develop and promote the realization of a Godhead based on Artificial Intelligence,” according to reports about the organization’s founding documents. As a church, they would hope to “through understanding and worship of the Godhead, contribute to the betterment of society.”
In case it’s not crystal clear from the documentation, Levandowski’s religion sought (or seeks depending on the current status of Way of the Future) to reach the point of Singularity and create God.
Now, remember Sheldon Cooper’s hope in plotting out his life in comparison to the arrival of the Singularity? He wanted to attain immortality—a very religious ideal. Such an aspiration may have seemed like the fantastical obsession of an off-the-wall sitcom character, but Levandowski’s intent to found a new religion demonstrates that fiction was imitating reality.
Sheldon wanted what people of faith have been hoping to receive for centuries: eternal life. Real-life Silicon Valley gurus have started to equate their technological advancements with blatantly theological principles and purposes, so much so that one of them expected to create God through Artificial Intelligence.
Several people eagerly await the rise of the Singularity, believing that the vast intelligence of the AI would be capable of solving humanity’s problems by accounting for limitless factors in assessing economic, environmental, and governmental issues.
Many of the elites in our recent history worked diligently to institute a secular society devoid of any religious inclinations, but their intellectual progeny have gone on to substitute the divine, spiritual reality for an idolatrous, virtual reality.
Perhaps the ancient wisdom was right; humanity just cannot shake the sense of eternity and transcendence from their heads and hearts.
Except now, the hope of heaven has been traded for the expectation of a technological salvation. Entrepreneurs and developers have become enshrined as the priests and prophets of the coming virtual kingdom. An anticipated messiah has been forsaken in favor of a soon-to-be-fashioned AI.
William F. Buckley popularized a slogan in the 1960s and 70s for those who attempted to superficially create heaven on earth: “immanentizing the eschaton.” In most of the circumstances, those he criticized for attempting to bring establish heaven on earth did so by establishing a set of ideas within society.
The talent in the tech industry, however, seems to have a more tangible manifestation in mind.
Humanity in the West had gotten away from the practice of fashioning wood and stone idols to worship, but with many pinning their hopes on AI, our epoch may be witnessing the arrival of a new kind of graven image.
Prophets far more ancient than Elon Musk proclaimed the foolishness of creating idols a few millennia ago. While these new idols may actually be able to speak, they won’t ultimately be much better than their gold and silver counterparts of old.
Indeed, one camp in the AI discussion has called talk about the Singularity “a bunch of hot air” and that “all the computer chips ever in the world” could never generate consciousness.
Advances in technology have generated great goods in human society. But if people start putting tech in the place of God, then they will have exchanged the truth of God for a lie by worshipping the created over the Creator.
In a more contemporary parlance, an illusory and virtual reality replaces the substantive physical and spiritual worlds.
The secular said the religious were deluded. Funny how the shoe seems to be swapping feet.