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AI’s Hopes and Dreams are Christianity Repackaged

Formerly the Religion Editor for the Atlantic, Sigal Samuel now writes about the future of consciousness, artificial intelligence, and neuroscience, and their "staggering ethical implications." She describes much of the hope for artificial intelligence as mimicking what Christianity and other major religions have been espousing for centuries. She writes:

Suppose I told you that in 10 years … you will live in a sort of paradise. You won’t get sick, or age, or die. Eternal life will be yours! Even better, your mind will be blissfully free of uncertainty — you’ll have access to perfect knowledge. Oh, and you’ll no longer be stuck on Earth. Instead, you can live up in the heavens.

The more you listen to Silicon Valley’s discourse around AI, the more you hear echoes of religion. That’s because a lot of the excitement about building a superintelligent machine comes down to recycled religious ideas. Most secular technologists who are building AI just don’t recognize that.

These technologists propose cheating death by uploading our minds to the cloud, where we can live digitally for all eternity. They talk about AI as a decision-making agent that can judge with mathematical certainty what’s optimal and what’s not. (It is) an endeavor that guarantees human salvation if it goes well, even as it spells doom if it goes badly.

Jack Clark, co-founder of the AI safety company Anthropic, recently wrote: “Sometimes I think a lot of the breathless enthusiasm for AGI is misplaced religious impulses from people brought up in a secular culture.”

Sigal Samuel summarizes the beliefs in this nutshell: "When we put all these ideas together and boil them down, we get this basic proposition:

  • We may not have much time until life as we know it is over.
  • So, we need to place a bet on something that can save us.
  • Since the stakes are so high, we should ante up and go all in on our bet.

Silicon Valley’s vision for AI? It’s religion, repackaged


Sigal Samuel “Silicon Valley’s vision for AI? It’s religion, repackaged,” Vox (9-7-23)

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