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Summoning the Demon: Worshiping Artificial Intelligence

The “Way of the Future” is the way of the past

by

Published: 21 January 2020 (GMT+10)
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And I will declare my judgments against them, for all their evil in forsaking me. They have made offerings to other gods and worshiped the works of their own hands.” (Jer. 1:16)

Thus spoke the Lord to Jeremiah concerning the cities of Judah who had rebelled against Him and had committed idolatries. It is human nature to worship idols, and in times past that often included literal idols. In the West, due mainly to Christian influence, the practice of worshipping physical idols has been largely abandoned for many centuries. But today, the Christian foundations of the West are crumbling away as more and more people forsake God (just as the Jews did in Jeremiah’s day). With this shift away from Christianity, we find another shift—back to the practice of worshiping the works of our own hands. This time, one of the forms this may take is the worship of artificial intelligence.

Multi-millionaire Silicon Valley engineer Anthony Levandowski has made headlines in recent years by announcing a new official religion: the Way of the Future.1 It is Levandowski’s contention that the human race is currently building artificial-intelligence that is so powerful it will become like a god compared to humanity, and will eventually assume control over this planet. This is an event he calls The Transition.2 As he puts it,

“It’s not a god in the sense that it makes lightning or causes hurricanes. But if there is something a billion times smarter than the smartest human, what else are you going to call it?”2

Levandowski envisions a world where we become subservient to our new AI master(s), but, he hopes, we will be treated nicely because the AI will fondly remember us as its/their benevolent (but frail) elders. If you think this sounds like the plot of more than one science-fiction movie, you would not be wrong! But Levandowski appears to be dead serious, having registered this new church with the IRS to receive tax-exempt status.

Interestingly, the trappings of this new religion all appear to be ripped off from the Bible. For example, note the obviously Christian-sounding nature of this quote from Levandowski:

“The church is how we spread the word, the gospel. If you believe, start a conversation with someone else and help them understand the same things.”2

Scanning through the extremely rudimentary ‘church’ website that still exists at the moment, the Way of the Future cult has co-opted all the familiar superficial talking-points one might expect to hear from one of the New Atheists (i.e. Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, etc.):

“We believe in science (the universe came into existence 13.7 billion years ago and if you can’t re-create/test something it doesn’t exist). There is no such thing as ’supernatural‘ powers.”

This is nothing other than the philosophy of positivism and materialism, which embarrassingly fails its own test. Can you perform an experiment to determine if positivism is true? Note also the prominent mention of deep time here.

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

This talking-point is so often abused by atheists that I wrote an article specifically addressing it. What counts as ‘extraordinary’ depends upon what worldview you already have, making this circular and subjective.

“We believe it may be important for machines to see who is friendly to their cause and who is not. We plan on doing so by keeping track of who has done what (and for how long) to help the peaceful and respectful transition.”

This is almost too ridiculous to comment on, but the author(s) appear to be serious here. They think the machines apparently will have some sort of ethic or honour system whereby they will reward those humans (i.e. these cult members) who have helped them ascend to power the most. This is literally the same mindset shared by the henchmen of all the stereotypical villains in fantasy and sci-fi—“once I help [villain] take over the world, he’ll put me in charge of something good!”

“We believe that intelligence is not rooted in biology. While biology has evolved one type of intelligence, there is nothing inherently specific about biology that causes intelligence. Eventually, we will be able to recreate it without using biology and its limitations. From there we will be able to scale it to beyond what we can do using (our) biological limits (such as computing frequency, slowness and accuracy of data copy and communication, etc).”

Of course, this is just their statement of faith, but what evidence could they possibly have for these claims? Other than God and angels (whom they deny), what example do we have of ‘intelligence not rooted in biology’? Ironically, I believe they are partially correct. Intelligence is not necessarily rooted in biology because it is spiritual! It is the fact that intelligent beings are spiritual beings that enables us to make free decisions in the first place. Consciousness is not an emergent property of matter—it is a function of the spirit. For this reason, I don’t believe it is realistic to assume that any form of machine or artificial intelligence will ever become truly self-aware.

However, as Elon Musk said, with AI “we are summoning the demon. In all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it’s like yeah he’s sure he can control the demon. Didn’t work out.”3

Just how literally and seriously did Musk intend these statements to be taken? Regardless, it would seem that Levandowski and others believe that if they worship the demon the demon will be kind to them. The real problem is not the development of AI technology itself (which could theoretically be put to good and moral uses), but the unbiblical ideas that consciousness is merely a function of matter, and that it would ever be appropriate to worship a machine. The Bible says that whenever humans worship idols of their own making, they are really worshiping demons:

“ … what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons.” 1 Corinthians 10:20

What does it take to truly summon a demon? There are some out there that are actively working towards that goal. We know from the Bible that demons are very real, and they really can inhabit bodies—even the bodies of animals (c.f. Matthew 8:28-34). But whether or not demons could literally inhabit a machine, the worship of anything other than God is truly demonic.

This particular cult (Way of the Future) may not go anywhere—after all, their leader Levandowski has now been charged with theft of trade secrets in a court battle between Google and Uber, and his future status is uncertain.4 Clearly, though, the cultural stage has been set via the false doctrine of evolutionism and an uncritical absorption of the messaging in many sci-fi movies. Expect more AI-worship cults to follow.

References and notes

  1. Harris, M., God Is a Bot, and Anthony Levandowski Is His Messenger, wired.com, 27 September 2017. Return to text.
  2. Harris, M., Inside the First Church of Artificial Intelligence, wired.com, 15 November 2017. Return to text.
  3. McFarland, M., Elon Musk: ‘With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon.’, washingtonpost.com, 24 October 2014.. Return to text.
  4. Korosec, K., Anthony Levandowski, former Google engineer at center of Waymo-Uber case, charged with stealing trade secrets, techcrunch.com, 27 August 2019. Return to text.

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Readers’ comments

Russell B.
God is so extremely intelligent and powerful humans are not able to understand Him. Who else could dictate the DNA of millions of species, speak the universe into existence, and create a great fish to swallow Jonah? Could any human endeavor create but one living rose? Humble your selves, as the Word says, "The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom". God gave us the minds to seek Him, and instead, so many of us use this very intelligence to try to reach His mysterious pinnacle of greatness. We are so helpless we try to humanize Him. Sorry, this is an endeavor best left to Him, to make the path to reach out to our Maker, and for those humble enough to keep an open mind and begin the search, our destiny can be fulfilled, that is to reach out and truly touch the face of God.
Anthony C.
The mark of the beast is said to be a silicon chip placed in people's hands or foreheads, and anyone who receives it will go to Hell. Also, the Bible talks about the Antichrist giving life to a beast, which will cause people to worship the image of rhe Antichrist and take his mark. We already have the technology to do this, and silicon chips have already been placed in some people,s hands and arms. However, it will only become compulsory after the rapture, but we should be warned about these things.
Tani N.
Thank you for this warning. It's good to know of such dangers.
Edoardo R.
"The unbiblical ideas that consciousness is merely a function of matter, and that it would ever be appropriate to worship a machine. " You touched a point of un-commensurable importance. Gödel's theorem of Incompleteness is the true honor guest of your article. I checked CMI's search engine and his name appears in many articles, it would be fair to dedicate an article exclusively to him! For example naturalism can be considered as the effort to build a logical axiomatic system explaining the universe on the own proper rational basis, an effort already buried by Gödel!
Well, on the special edition of Italian edition of Scientific American, February 2001, dedicated to Gödel , the author Gianbruno Guerrerio points out the Gödel's opposition to the idea of Turing, who argued that "the processes of the [human] mind cannot go farther than the mechanical processes". And Guerrerio quotes Gödel from his "The modern development of the foundations of mathematics in the light of philosophy": ".....Namely, it turns out that in the systematic establishment of the axioms of mathematics, new axioms, which do not follow by formal logic from those previously established, again and again become evident. ....(.....).....For it is just this becoming evident of more and more new axioms on the basis of the meaning of the primitive notions that a machine cannot imitate. ". Funny: The new priests of the the new AI cult have already been wiped away, even before they began their ministry, by the modern Elijah of logical math, Kurt Gödel!!!
Turing was an atheist materialist. At the opposite Gödel believed in God and even if he was probably an evolutionist (a child of his time and cultural environment!) he is known for his defense of the supernatural against the materialist deniers.
David B.
Worshiping anyone or anything other than God is evil, of course. This "cult" reminds me a lot of those people who claim to be Jedi.

However, it sounds like a lot of Christians have no idea just how advanced AI has become or where it might end up, or perhaps just as importantly, how willing people may be to believe in its abilities and powers. Intelligence is a complex, subtle thing, and humans, being made in the image of God, may be able to come closer to simulating or mimicking our thought processes more than many would expect. Already computers are doing things that, when I was young in the '60s and '70s, many people said they would never be able to do. Things we thought were examples of high human intelligence, such as playing chess, turned out to be conquerable by "brute-force" techniques. Computers have even outplayed humans at more open-ended games such as Go. It's not all simplistic pre-recorded, pre-determined programming, either.

Too much to go into here, but I'll note that even decades ago, the simple, canned-response program "ELIZA" was getting people to treat it as if it were intelligent. I will not be surprised if advanced techniques eventually at least make most people believe a machine is more intelligent than a human.
Courtney K.
Aren't artificial intelligence and machine learning modeled after human brains? So isn't artificial intelligence biomimetics? If so, why do humans even need artificial intelligence if it was modeled/created after us? I.e. why is artificial intelligence more efficient than us if it was modeled/created after us? Are our lives making us too busy to think like AI?
Paul Price
I don't think I would go so far as to call AI biomimetics. It's not really based upon the actual workings of human minds. It's a bunch of mathematical algorithms working together. Human minds are not machines, but AI is a machine. But it does mimic the appearance of a human mind for the end user. We cannot perform calculations as efficiently as computers-- although some people with rare special abilities can, I've heard. But in any case, most of us will always need to use calculators for complex math, and AI is based on that same principle.
Joshua M.
Sanctuary AI (company) is currently building 'synths', artificial humans, with the goal of making them indistinguishable from real humans. "Suzanne believes we could ten years away from fully human-like synthetic robots."[1] Their CEO, Suzanne Gildert, is a black witch steeped in the dark arts and occult as much of her art betrays.

The entire computer industry is based on the operating systems of occult divination, namely geomancy (binary). There's a reason we have installation wizards, daemons and Python as common computing nomenclature. The whole system is steeped in and originated from the occult. Your smartphone is a pocket geomantic device, the "black mirror" of occult systems of yesteryear. You still poke and swipe the sand (glass) to produce your computing outcomes, identical to geomancy (Arabic: ilm al raml, science of the sand)

Paul Price said in one of the comments, "You cannot digitally simulate a person." I suggest Mr. Price investigate why the NSA commenced their Sentient World Simulation project in 2006 [2] in addition to the secret purpose of social media platforms, namely, the harvesting of live, human data for digital simulation. The game is well ahead of what they want us to believe.

[1] Brian Wang, "Suzanne Gildert CEO of Sanctuary AI is Making Synthetic Humanlike Robots -SU Summit 2018" Aug 21, 2018. [link deleted per feedback rules]
[2] Tony Cerri and Alok Chaturvedi "Sentient World Simulation (SWS): A Continuously Running Model of the Real World. A Concept Paper for Comments." August 22, 2006. [link deleted per feedback rules]
Paul Price
Then what are you using to post this comment right now, an abacus?
John P.
Note the comment about “we believe in science.... “ and then say that anything that cannot be tested they won’t believe! What a contradiction for there is no test to prove the age of the universe, it’s pure theory.
D P.
I am reminded of a thought experiment I've heard by the atheist community called "Roko's Basilisk" that is about if an AI supercomputer took over the world and "made it better", it would digitally simulate all of the people who thought about it, but didn't help to bring it about and torture them with bad scenarios over and over for as long as possible, and the thought experiment asks if it would be wisest to help bring it about or not, since you thought about it. Is this cult supposed to be that?
Paul Price
Nothing I have read on this has indicated that it has anything to do with that thought experiment. But you cannot 'digitally simulate' a person.
Steve B.
seems to me this man is using religion to gain wealth, start a church and become tax exempt, steal trade secrets for what reason money of coarse. The demon he worships is the age old one wealth, to me he is hiding behind something he doesn't believe in to hide his true purpose, getting all the money he can and then get out.
Van W.
Good article! Im a data scientist who works in Machine learning and AI / analytics and massive amounts of data. The issue, to me, is NOT whether AI will ever be truly conscious. Not likely. But that the gullible will be easily fooled by the magic trick of responding intelligently using NLP natural language processing and preprogrammed or prerecorded voice sentences in response to a human user. OT idols "have a mouth but can't speak, eyes but can't see" but AI CAN appear to do so. Psalm 115:4-5
Im already mimicking people with (stupid) telephone call ads.
When I pray for people, I already give people "a word from the Lord" intelligently. I hear their concern and looking up a related scripture (using words they spoke) to encourage them in the God's word. But I have a solid theological foundation and remember those scriptures. The theological principles could be programmed in and (by NLP and google search), relevant scriptures could be spoken in a simulated or prerecorded voice. People's hearts would be touched because God's word never returns void. People could turn to the AI to get a true scripture, and have "a form of godliness but denying the power thereof, from such turn away...they are forever learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth." 2 Tim 3:5,7
Preaching the gospel (good feeling words) without faith in the Word or conviction of sin, no repentance happens. These are "doctrines of demons" and demonization follows. This is already true in liberal compromising churches. if you compromise on evolution, other heresies follow.
Pratha S.
This is ridiculous.Nobody would go along with something like this -- at least you would THINK that they wouldn't! Unfortunately,there are people out there who WILL actually go along with such stuff.These people are being deceived -- greatly! You hope and pray that they come to know the Lord -- otherwise the 'god' that they worship will turn out to be one who is not so forgiving.
John P.
I wonder if people could create artificial intelligence in the first place as all you'd get is programmed machines subject to human error.To worship such machines really is demonic. In Revelation, where the antichrist had- or will- desecrate the temple and demand he be worshipped as a god, his image will be a replica of himself. Maybe Levandowski's cult is the beginning of setting up for this future time, which could be nearer than many think.The comments by Musk ring true. Machines are just that.As the West moves further away from God and more pagan technological understanding also runs down. Everything is subject to this decay, and it speeds up I think as societies abandon their Creator. We are not gods and any who try to set themselves or the work of their hands as such will be dealt with by God Himself.This present age is like the days of Noah. Back then there were the Nephilim.If humans really do get artificial intelligence up and running it might be the Nephilim's equivalent.The Nephilim were the children of women and fallen angels marrying or coming together. Then came Noah's flood. Next time it is fire.Biblical prophesies are always true, it's God's Word.
John F.
Strangely he retains enough Christian morality to expect that his 'god' will treat it's worshippers nicely!

He should study Hinduism. There is no forgiveness or grace for wrongs or failures, only the law of karma taking vengeance on such failures.
Without Christian morality he will have a machine expecting a machines reliability etc from it's worshippers.
Surely a dreadful fate.
Paul Price
A very good observation. I don't know what makes him think that his concept of morality would match that of a divinely-intelligent machine. Maybe it would be like in Terminator, where the machines view humans as their greatest competitors and want to wipe us all out. They could even pretend to be nice to us just to lure us into thinking that we were going to be treated nicely so we would let down our guards.
Christian H.
I find it curious you leave it open whether a demon could inhabit a machine. At least from looking over past pagan cultures, such as the Midew of the Ojibwe tribes or the various shamans of Amazonian tribes, drums, bags, and houses could all be places with demons living in or around them. Thus, I wouldnt be surprised if someday demons take residence in advanced and worshiped computers, android robots, and the like. These are thoughts.
Paul Price
It seems at least plausible to me, but without knowing anything about how demons inhabit creatures (like pigs, for example), it's impossible to say for sure. This is the realm of the supernatural and we can only really speak where Scripture speaks.
Dan M.
I quote, “We believe in science (the universe came into existence 13.7 billion years ago and if you can’t re-create/test something it doesn’t exist). There is no such thing as ’supernatural‘ powers.” So by that line of reasoning, you can't recreate and test the big bang or macro-evolution so it must not exist, right? It's beyond human science! Supernatural simply means it is above the natural state of this world in which we exist, so why would one expect the human scientific method to able to detect, explain or rule out any, supernatural event, (above us). His is simply a replacement faith because he doesn't want to behave and he's going to get the spanking of his life if he doesn't repent. Or maybe the problem is, he didn't get any spankings, (Pro 22:15). If Levandowski, Dawkins or any other self proclaimed erudite, could create a living organism from scratch, (dirt) with all their sophisticated equipment like computers, microscopes, bio-scientific equipment, with all its complexity and DNA code I would be impressed, but it isn't going to happen. It's to supernatural. Oops! Looks like we stumbled upon God Almighty, again! Mr. Levandowski needs to turn off the sci-fi channel, pick up a bible and grow some humility before God. The bible tells us how we got here in the first place and it is a more rational explanation if you don't close your mind to the possibilities, (supernatural). But if you think you're the center of all things, (satan's sin) you're not going to do that. I love sci-fi movies buy the way, but I remain here on earth!
Justin L.
I know this is a little (OK, a lot) woo-woo but after reading the title my mind immediately went to Jack Parsons. He was a rocket engineer and one of the founders of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. His story is wildly interesting...rocket scientist by day, pagan magician with the likes of Alister Crowley by night. At the end of his life he was attempting to do the Babalon (not Babylon) working and summon that particular demon to herald in a new age. He allegedly did in 1949 and the demon reported she would manifest in seven years time. Seven years later, in ‘56, John MaCarthy, Claude Shannon, and Marvin Minsky, organized a conference at Dartmouth to begin research into AI. They introduced the term here and the term does not appear in written data before 1956. Like I said, woo-woo to the extreme, but entertaining nonetheless.
Paul Price
Interesting history, but I don't recognize the term 'woo woo'.
Michael B.
From the earliest days of AI its always brought me to one place in the scriptures and today even more so:
Revelation 13:15-17
He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed. He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
Norman P.
I just read 2 Kings Chapter 17. There we see the final terrible falling away into idolatry that led to the northern Kingdom, Israel's, scattering, and replacement with multicultural, idolatrous 'Samaritans' - who worshiped the God of the land for convenience, as well as every form of idol!
Worship of the creature rather than the Creator, associated with sexual immorality, is the Idols' demonic hall mark (Romans 1). How desperately wicked is the human heart: but how incredible that God found a way for Messiah to be revealed through all this mess, enabling us to be as a chaste Bride unto Him for evermore - the true worshipers, who worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23). Amen
Les E.
Much of the AI hype is based on the idea that human brains are meat computers, and there is no spiritual aspect to our being. So naturally, materialists expect it to be just a matter of time before AI superior to the human mind will be developed. However, the Church / Turing thesis casts doubt on the idea that the current breed of computers will ever match human creativity, understanding, and intuition. And of course, no one (apart from God) understands qualia (the state of experiencing awareness), so how do you design an algorithm for something that is not understood? The bottom line is that a Turing machine (a modern computer) will never be truly innovative, they may well mimic current human creativity, but it will always require a human in the loop. AI is doing amazing things, but worshiping it is hugely misguided. In the end, computers are machines and no more self-aware than your calculator ever was. Of course, Jesus rose from the dead, proving that there is more to our existence than the physical, so materialistic AI is based on a flawed foundation.
Robert R.
AI no matter how fast it processes, still just does what it is programmed to by human controllers.
A bacteria is more alive.
Gian Carlo B.
Unfortunately for the AI overenthusiasts, Searle’s Chinese Room argument remains unrefuted and is strong argument against the strong AI, AI can only at best simulate consciousness, but it can never be conscious.
Yingsoon C.
There is nothing new under the sun. Man has been creating gods in their own image since Cain.
Philippus S.
What more can I say than what Paul has said! We give sinful things nice names to make it sound better because we say we love the people who habitually commit those transgressions! We say people judge others while we are only repeating what God judgements are, all recorded in His Book the Bible! We fight with the truth in God’s word with our love for political correctness not warning people of the consequences of their actions. God has made all judgements already it is in His WORD. So when we water it down we contradict Gods Word. Heaven is Real, Hell is real, we might not like either of these truths but it is real, or are we not convicted to it.
What more can I say than what the Bible has already said; What Paul has already said!
Romans 1:18-32 not my words but Gods through Paul HIS messenger called Paul!
Then there is this;
1Co 6:9  Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 
1Co 6:10  Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 
1Co 6:11  And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. 

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