Religion is a rational way to deal with unexpected uncertainty. People worship sources of unexpected uncertainty because the biggest and totally unexpected punishments and rewards emerge from those sources. The religion evolved as the way to deal with life changing events which people couldn’t predict and subsequently were unable to avoid. People had to begin worshiping them because they had no way to influence them. People had to learn how to live with the unexpected uncertainty. Hence the religion came at their resque.
The first generation of gods came out of nature because in the beginning nature was the major source of unexpected uncertainty for humans. The sun, a thunderstorm, a crocodile, a cow or an oak became embodiments of natural forces beyond human comprehension and control. It all started with myths and fairy tales which emerged locally in a kin or a tribe. The better fit ones were spreading from tribe to tribe like a virus until they became global.
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The agricultural age forced the old gods o address two sources of unexpected uncertainty simultaneously: nature and people. Settled humans were still very much dependent on nature but other humans, especially, nomads in large hordes became the new significant source of unexpected uncertainty to be taken into account. Gods also settled and became more structured following their worshipers.
As the population density increased even further the next generation of gods, the human like gods emerged. Other humans surpassed nature as the major source of unexpected uncertainty. The artificial environment created by humans began to protect them from nature better and better. At the same time the behavior of large masses of humans was getting more and more unpredictable.
Fortunately, people began to self-domesticate by adapting to the artificial environment that they created to get protection from the uncertainty of nature. A more machine-like hence more predictable behaviour began to evolve in humans as a result of the natural selection.
The industrial age finally brought the self-domestication to its limits by creating fascism, communism and liberal democracy as three competing forms of a totalitarian collectivist regime. The swarming self alignment of the liberal democracy proved to be the near optimal evolutionary fit to secure predictability of dense masses of people. The global machine was built. The information age began.
At that tipping point people again began to look for the new embodiment of gods. Where from now the unexpected uncertainty will emerge? Naturally from the machine. At the first glance it will be the deus ex machina kind of god that was a machine assisting human actors to pretend they are gods in the ancient Greek theater. This is exactly the way how the modern myth of artificial intelligence (AI) is unfolding.
Supervised machine learning that remains the only industrial implementation of AI now is a closed ended technology. It has reached its highest possible golden standard by now and will not evolve into anything else from here.
It is hard to classify the existing machine learning applications as intelligence but the myth of almighty AI is selling them in bulk to dummies.
Take the bestseller #1, the supervised deep learning that requires vast amounts of training data accurately and thoroughly classified by humans to be able to accurately recognise very similar data within a very narrow area of probability distribution. You begin with creating a huge training data set labelled by humans for a relatively narrow domain only to learn that similarly huge training data sets will be required for an array of subdomains which number can’t be defined in the beginning but can only be found in the process by trial and error. Such subdomains unclassified by human supervisors and therefore invisible to the quasi intelligent machines may emerge as unpleasant surprises years following the beginning of the implementation. “Current models cheat by picking on surface regularities,” as one of the fathers of modern DL Yoshua Bengio put it.
Twenty years ago the very term Artificial Intelligence was forbidden. Credit card companies were using artificial neural networks to detect unusual spending patterns of cardholders. They were narrowing down billions of transactions to hundreds of thousands of suspicious ones to be further sorted by humans. A story about a neural network that was applied to troves of unstructured ER data and discovered that former athletes were prone to sudden heart arrests which were considered clueless by doctors before was extremely popular in very narrow circles of people interested in the exotic technology. Looks like modern AI can’t break that old record so far.
The progress of AI over the last two decades was achieved technically by brute force computing but from the marketing side by extremely successful product renaming into Artificial Intelligence just on time to meet the exploding demand of people looking for the new gods. Deus ex machina, the god from the machine became the machine as the god itself. It wasn’t the fault of AI scientists that the currently modest machine learning promise became hundreds of times overblown.
AI emerged as a myth but the Humankind was in search for exactly that sort of myth exactly at the time of its arrival. I am sure that fathers of deep learning are not happy to hear both prophets who claim we are doomed by AI and wizards who promise that AI will solve all our problems and eventually make us immortal. Ordinary people are happy to listen to both because people are desperately searching for the new gods.
More and more people are getting the implicit feeling that the humongous eachine built by the Humankind to protect itself from the uncertainty became the major source of unexpected uncertainty by itself. The human like embodiment of gods has to give way to the new machine like embodiment. AI is the best candidate for that role so far.
According to the ancient myth, the Titanomachy, the victory of the human-like gods, the Olympic Gods over the nature-like gods, the Titans, was far from peaceful. The struggle of human-like gods, machine-like gods and the nature-like gods which returned from their exile has already began. It leads to turmoil in human heads. Three sources of uncertainty compete for the primary attention of people. The church of the machine will eventually emerge as the winner with the AI being the new true and only real god. Scientists and engineers will emerge as its most faithful priests.
The role of technology evangelists already exists in the tech industry for decades. Now the technology will finally become a true god not because of its predictability but, on the contrary, because of its unpredictability. People worship uncertainty and take certainty for granted. Hence modern opaque and unpredictable AI is the ideal candidate for the new machine like god. It has the best odds to win unless the nature like gods, the Titans supported by the climate change and led by the cunning Uranus would claim the revenge.
Many great scientists and engineers, idealists who wish to do good for the Humankind are helping to pump up the AI hype. There are even more greedy and cold hearted fortune hunters who are pumping up the AI hype. Both are unintentionally becoming the first preachers and pastors of the new religion, the church of the Machine.