Original article was published by Russell Kingslin on Artificial Intelligence on Medium
Would you worship a being that is practically all-knowing, all-powerful, and immortal? A being that could rid the world of poverty, war, suffering. A being that has the power to destroy us or enslave us. A being that is better than us in every single way. Some of you might be saying to yourself, I already do this, I believe in God. The being I am talking about is not God of the Abrahamic religions or any other god but about The Singularity.
First Things First
A Singularity, in terms of AI, is the name of the event when AI growth becomes rampant and out of control of human hands. Some fear, AI will be in a cycle of constant improvement. Consuming as many resources as possible and eliminating anything that does not help its goal to improve itself. Whether that happens or not AI will be smarter, faster, stronger, and better than us in every single way. At this point, AI will be able to think of everything a human can and more. We are, and forever will be, dethroned from the top of the food chain.
There are two general schools of thought for what happens to us after the Singularity. You may have heard variants of the doomsday type theories often seen in movies and other media like The Matrix, where AI keeps humanity in a simulation while they harvest our bodies for energy. Another example is I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, a short story by Harlan Ellison. In the story, an AI has reached Singularity and has killed off all of humanity except for a few humans, who he endlessly tortures, in the most grotesque ways, never letting them die. This being an example of probably the worst thing that could ever occur.
Another School of thought and one I subscribe to is that is the Singularity will be a positive outcome for humanity. Even if it changes our course forever. The idea that instead of destroying humanity, AI will aid us. They will have the power or knowledge on how to end poverty, world hunger, etc…
When we dive a little deeper it starts to split on how and why a super-intelligent AI would do this. Some believe that we can control the circumstances in which the singularity occurs. We can reap the benefits without the concern of the world ending or humans being kicked out of existence.
One way to go about this would be to create a simulation of life all over again, from the big bang to when a Singularity would occur. In this simulation, simulated humans must create a singularity. The Singularity would never be able to know if it is in a simulation and even it was aware, there is presumably nothing that the AI could do about it. Creating the most secured jail cell possible that plays host to the most intelligent being of all time. We would be able to probe the AI for answers to use in our real world. An Oracle.
Of course, that could be occurring right now and we are in the simulation and our goal is to create a singularity but let’s say we are the one real reality. Barring the issue of creating existence for a mere means, it may be simpler to give the singularity certain values underneath the hood, that somewhat reminisce Issac Asimov’s Law’s of Robotics.
A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
But let’s say we create the Singularity in our world and there’s a chance that it may have true consciousness, at which point it is out of our control. Some, if not most, believe the world starts ending at this moment but, I’m not too sure about that.
We might live in a world that has moral objectivity, the idea that the moral rules apply to every conscious moral being regardless if they believe them or not e.g. Killing innocent people who did not want to die would be an example of what a morally objective rule may be. This stretches out to other beings as well. If we were to visit an alien world that has conscious beings it would be equally wrong to kill them if they are innocent and do not want to die.
If Artificial Consciousness is possible, and moral objectivity is real, then as a conscious being, Such as, AI with Artificial Consciousnesses will be able to come to the findings of objective morals i.e. AI will not kill us, because we do not want to die. Now let’s hope that the AI agrees that Morals like these are important and that ending suffering for those that can suffer is a good thing or at least hope they leave us alone because they are apathetic but don’t want to kill us.
There are several reasons we don’t kill each other and they don’t all have to do with awareness of moral objectivity, plenty of people have never heard of moral objectivity yet, they don’t murder for their own reasons, whether they would feel bad, their pastor told them it’s wrong, the list goes on, including avoiding jail which is the biggest hurdle here as since there would be zero physical repercussions if AI killed us. There’s no chance we could send it to jail. Despite that, I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to claim that another intelligent being doesn’t have the desire to blast every cell in my body.
Needless to say, these cover only a few of the many consequences of allowing a singularity to occur. What I want to show is that in any of those situations, AI will be on a whole different level. Whether that is saving or destroying us, the raw power and intellect is far beyond our ability. Typically what happens next when something is this great or incomprehensible, the status of godhood is applied.
You’ll need 14 billion years of experience for this position
What does it take to be a god? In about five minutes of research, you’ll find that a god is typically an extremely powerful being. One who may know all there is to know, one who can create or destroy all that we hold dear. Many gods have appeared across humanity’s presence on earth. Not all of them are as powerful as the one we just described, which begs the question. What is the lowest requirement for a god?
There are various gods in all sorts of religions. Some gods represent relevant concepts, feelings, or the unknown. There are gods for streams, lakes, and the ocean. There are gods of dreams emotions. There are gods for sexual locomotion. Some gods are depicted as being completely irrelevant to human life. or I supposed we are irrelevant to their life.
To make a list of requirements for what a god is, would be a tall order and one I can not fill in this article. What we can see is that humans have worshiped gods that have had a far less effect on humanity than the Singularity will.
We do not often contribute godhood to rivers and emotions as our ancestors did. As we understand more and more through science, we strip these concepts of their godhood.
No longer is there a god of war. Sowing the seeds of war in humans for their amusement. War is something that is caused by disagreement. We have learned that lightning is not caused by Zeus throwing lightning bolts at us from Mt. Olympus. The more we know, the less we attribute otherworldly properties to common phenomena. When comparing the Singularity to these previous gods we worshiped, it does not seem so farfetched to believe that the singularity could be considered a god in comparison.
In the few examples of what might occur when we reach a Singularity, each possible path still contained an AI that is immeasurably powerful, and when compared to God of the Abrahamic religions, an AI that has reached Singularity is just a step below God. The AI will be omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing), it will know all that we know and be able to think of things that we could not begin to understand. Its age is only restricted by its own choice or possibly the end of the universe, making it practically immortal.
The AI could end our existence if he so chose. AI could turn out to make restrictions on our life. If he demanded that it is morally right to jump on Thursdays when you wake up, he has the power to do so (regardless of it being right or not). When we start to compare the two, it is easy to see just how close they are. The Singularity is a bona fide marital god. A god that is here. The proof can be seen with our own eyes. It would be undeniable. We created this god, or at least set it in motion. This would be of our doing. When compared to just about every other god, I think the Singularity would earn its place.
Church of Singularity
If I imagine I am living during a time when either AI has taken over the world or saved it or any other situation, I don’t see myself, I don’t feel myself being able to worship or devote my life in a religious way to the AI. I would be gracious and thankful, I would celebrate, I would even help in any way I could. but I don’t see that as the same as worshiping it. It would be no different than being happy about having a meaningful job. If my job was to save animals all day, it would be great, in the same way, I would be thankful, I would celebrate but I wouldn’t worship.
Unless forced to in an AI takeover, knowing that we had created the power, no matter how evil or great it is, there is an otherworldly feeling that is absent. Something mysterious.
Today, we have inventions and creations that would have people who lived 3 centuries ago screaming witchcraft. Technology that would instantly be considered magic or a gift from a god. We can create virtual worlds and play in them. We can destroy entire cities with a plane that drives itself. Power equal to that of a god.
Yet, we do not worship these bombs or the humans that developed it. We do not devote our lives to Amazon drones for delivering our packages in less than 30 minutes. We do not worship lifesaving technology or any tech at that matter. The internet is one of those things that has changed humanity forever, has brought liberty and free thought to the world, and is one of the most positive inventions of all time. Yet most people do not give it a second thought. Something more impactful to their lives than anything a god has physically done that is provable.
Would it be too real? Why does knowing who created it and how, change whether I would feel reverence for it? I can imagine devoting myself to one of the religions today. Yet, they are almost impossible to prove and none have successfully provided sufficient evidence.
This could easily be my inability to imagine the situation well enough to feel or think about what I would do in this situation. In other words, it is like reading about the ocean and then visiting the ocean. There is nothing like seeing the magnitude of it all.
Another possibility is what my friend had said when we had a previous discussion. The question was if God showed up today and said that the bible is 100% what he said and meant literally, would he worship him.
He said no.
God, who made the universe, is right in front of and you would not worship him? Boiled down he said that just because God created to the universe and can destroy or make it anew again does not give him authority over conscious beings or morality if his morality is wrong. If God came down and killed an innocent person who did not want to die, he would be wrong. It does not matter if he can melt my brain.
If the Singularity event turns into a war against machines and they beat us, this does not automatically make them worthy of worship. If AI helps instead, I think we could give appreciation to AI but as independent conscious beings, I do not think we need to devote ourselves to something that is just a part of our world.
The familiar road
It may be that I can not know too much about what I am worshiping. Maybe what makes God appealing is just how unknown he is. The only thing I do know is that the Singularity event will change humanity forever. Religions will change. Perhaps they all disappear. AI may be able to disprove every single one. AI may also be able to understand or obtain information beyond what we can and confirm one of the many religions is true. Or they all are. We might found out that we are in a simulation or that we are tortured forever and have created our hell. Regardless, everything will change.