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The First Church of Artificial Intelligence Has Shut its Virtual Doors

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Those disenchanted with their current religion and looking for a god they can trust just lost a candidate when The Way of the Future church, whose god is Artificial Intelligence, closed for the most unchurchly of reasons – its founder pulled all of his money out of it because he thought he could apply it better elsewhere. Better than in a church … even an AI one? Would it help if you knew the founder is Anthony Levandowski. Does that name sound familiar?

“Anthony Levandowski — President Trump granted a full pardon to Anthony Levandowski.

Mr. Levandowski is an American entrepreneur who led Google’s efforts to create self-driving technology. Mr. Levandowski pled guilty to a single criminal count arising from civil litigation. Notably, his sentencing judge called him a “brilliant, groundbreaking engineer that our country needs.” Mr. Levandowski has paid a significant price for his actions and plans to devote his talents to advance the public good.”

Yes, THAT Anthony Levandowski. In 2019, Levandowski was indicted on 33 federal charges of alleged theft of self-driving car trade secrets in a suit filed by Waymo LLC, a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc, the parent company of Google. In August 2020, Levandowski pleaded guilty to one of the 33 charges, and was sentenced to 18 months in prison – until he was pardoned on January 20, 2021. All of this began in 2017, not long after he founded The Way of the Future church. Was he getting ready?

AI as god? Tell me more!

“What is going to be created will effectively be a god. 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?

“The idea needs to spread before the technology. The church is how we spread the word, the gospel. If you believe [in it], start a conversation with someone else and help them understand the same things.”

Levandowski explained his church and religion to Wired back in 2017. While other religions speak of converting people, Levandowski called “the Transition” from humans in charge to AI – a benevolent AI god that would take care of the planet better than humans (that’s easy), one you can explain with science and can talk to … knowing it really is listening. He planned for the AI church to have a gospel (called The Manual), a liturgy, and a physical place of worship. The Way of the Future was a real church, which protected it from government interference, and the lawsuits fostered public speculation Levandowski started it to hide his money – the plea bargain included a $179 million award against him that prompted a bankruptcy filing.

“The entirety of the church’s funds — exactly $175,172 — were donated to the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. The nonprofit corporation’s annual tax filings with the Internal Revenue Service show it had $175,172 in its account as far back as 2017.”

Why didn’t he pass around a basket?

Levandowski may have been rich, but The Way of the Future obviously wasn’t. He told TechCrunch the Black Lives Matter movement convinced him to put the funds in an area that could have an immediate impact. Other than the money, there were no assets – no building, no Manual, no AI computer, no incense, nothing. Apparently, this is what happens when a church with a god a billion times smarter than humans is run by one of those humans.

It was nice to have someone who thought AI could be a force of good, not the evil entity feared by Elon Musk, Bill Gates and many others. Unfortunately, in AI as in baseball, nice finishes last.

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