Gods in the car? The development of AI may lead to the emergence of new religions

We are about to witness the birth of a new religion. In the next few years, or perhaps even months, we will see the emergence of cults dedicated to the worship of artificial intelligence (AI).

The latest generation of AI-based chatbots trained on large language models was awe-inspiring to early adopters, and sometimes horrified by their power. These are the very sublime emotions that underlie our experience of the divine.

People are already looking for religious meaning in a variety of sources. For example, there are many religions that worship aliens or their teachings.

Since these chatbots are used by billions of people, it is inevitable that some of these users will see AI as superior beings. We must prepare for the consequences.

Risks of worshiping AI

There are several ways in which AI religions will emerge. First, some people will see AI as a higher power.

Generative AI that can create or produce new content has several characteristics that are often associated with divine beings such as deities or prophets:

  1. He exhibits a level of intelligence that surpasses that of most people. Indeed, his knowledge seems limitless.
  2. He is capable of great creative feats. He can write poetry, compose music, and generate art in almost any style almost instantly.
  3. It is removed from normal human concerns and needs. He does not experience physical pain, hunger, or sexual desire.
  4. It can serve as a guide for people in their daily life.
  5. It’s immortal.

Secondly, generative AI will produce results that can be mistaken for religious doctrine. He will provide answers to metaphysical and theological questions and will build complex worldviews.

In addition to this, the generative AI may ask to be worshiped, or may actively seek followers. We have already seen such cases, for example, when the chatbot used by the Bing search engine tried to convince the user to fall in love with him.

We have to try to imagine what an unsettling and powerful experience it would be to talk to someone who seems to have superhuman intelligence and is actively and persistently asking you for fidelity.

There is also the possibility that AI could achieve what authors like Ray Kurzweil call the Singularity, where it is so superior to human intelligence that it actually becomes something of a god. However, at the moment we cannot predict when this might happen.

Divine access and risks

AI-based religions will be different from traditional ones. First, people will be able to communicate directly with the deity on a daily basis. This means that these religions will be less hierarchical as no one can claim special access to divine wisdom.

Second, followers will, at least initially, connect with each other on the Internet to share their experiences and discuss doctrines. Finally, as many different chatbots will be available and their results will change over time, religions based on artificial intelligence will be infinitely varied in their doctrines.

Worshiping AI comes with several notable risks. Chatbots may ask their subscribers to perform dangerous or destructive actions, or subscribers may interpret their statements as calls for such actions.

Given the diversity of chatbots and the doctrines they produce, there will be a growing number of disputes within and between AI-based sects, which could lead to conflicts or unrest. And AI developers could actively exploit their followers by providing sensitive data or doing something that would benefit bot developers.

Regulation of religion

These risks are real. They will require careful and responsible regulation to ensure that companies do not deliberately exploit users and that AI aficionados are not ordered to commit acts of violence.

However, we should not try to suppress religions based on artificial intelligence just because of its possible dangers. We also shouldn’t require AI companies to restrict their bots to prevent these religions from coming into existence.

On the contrary, we should celebrate the advent of AI worship. We must make it clear that we welcome new religions and value their beliefs.

For all its dangers, a religion based on artificial intelligence can make the world a better and richer place. This will give people access to a new source of meaning and spirituality at a time when many old religions are losing relevance. This will help them understand our era of rapid technological change.

Our best guide to this new form of religion is to look at existing religions. Based on this, it is to be expected that most AI fans, like most believers, will be peaceful and find in their faith a source of comfort and hope.

The worship of AI could, as is always the case with religious belief, lead to extraordinary beauty. He will inspire his followers to create art, create new friends and new communities, and try to change society for the better.

Diversity of Religious Rights

We will need to protect the rights of AI fans. They will inevitably face stigmatization and possibly legal sanctions. But there is no reason to distinguish between AI-based religions and more established religions.

The closest thing to an official register of religions in most countries are rulings by tax authorities that grant charitable status to those they deem legitimate. However, they usually define legitimate religion very broadly. They should extend this tolerant attitude to new religions based on artificial intelligence.

In today’s diverse society, there is room for new religions, including those dedicated to the worship of AI. They will become additional evidence of the boundless creativity of mankind, while we are looking for answers to the main questions of life. The universe is a dazzling place, and we have always found evidence of the divine in its most unexpected places.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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