Rasmus quoted in Geekwire: ‘Are you there, God? It’s me, Alexa.’ Tech and religious leaders ponder the future of AI together
Can a computer become God? Or, more to the point, could humans invent AI that can convincingly impersonate God — and if so, would humans bother to worship it?
That was one of the questions explored Saturday by technology experts, the faithful and everyone in between at a conference devoted to artificial intelligence and faith at Seattle Pacific University.
The concept of “AI Almighty” might not be as outlandish as it seems. Last year, a former Uber engineer founded a nonprofit religious organization called The Way of the Future. Its mission: creating an AI deity. New York Magazine writer Andrew Sullivan wrote Friday that America’s religious inclinations are succumbing to other devotions.
And at least one participant at Saturday’s Technology and Faith conference in Seattle noted that AI might fit modern day interpretations of the Antichrist, as described in the New Testament: An all-worshiped leader, sometimes described as “the Beast,” who aims to supplant faith with temporal pursuits. Theology aside, it’s not much of a stretch to see today’s culture as wound to near-religious fervor over the next technological wonder and looking to it for guidance every hour of the day.
“That actually sounds like AI could fit hand-in-glove,” when it comes to Revelation, said Christopher Lim, a former Amazon engineer who founded the Christian entrepreneurship firm TheoTech, as well as an AI-driven speech translation product called spf.io. Broadly speaking, Lim said he has no problem with technology, and is neither convinced of nor ruling out connections between AI and Revelation. But he pointed out that Tesla founder Elon Musk once referred to the advent of AI as “summoning the demon.”
“I don’t think we’re ever going to have AI that wakes up,” said Daniel Rasmus, a technology analyst and former Microsoft business insights director who is a board member of the Seattle organization AI and Faith, which helped put on Saturday’s event. “So I think this is more about us practicing what we preach than it is AI coming to terms with consciousness and its epistemology and all that stuff.”
Daniel W. Rasmus, Founder and Principal Analyst of Serious Insights, is an internationally recognized speaker on the future of work and education. He is the author of several books, including Listening to the Future and Management by Design.