Blog: How Science Created God
Science may have already created God. And it will do so again very soon. This may seem contradictory since science is based on facts. God, on the other hand, is an illusory product of our imagination and, for some, a satisfying source of meaning. However, it may well be possible that God truly does exist: thanks to prior intelligent beings’ scientific efforts. If not, then in creating artificial general intelligence (AGI), we will create our God. At last.
God is a product of evolution’s quest for complexity, rather than the vice versa, where God is the starting point that sets everything in motion. The common misconception maintains that God has the power to create life. After all, it is precisely this ability that makes God, God. Well, if God is accredited with beginning life, then one might conclude that the first entity to have combined the seven necessary characteristics of life — homeostasis, organization, metabolism, growth, adaptation, response to the environment, and reproduction — is our God. And if It is an organism that created us in Its image, then that would be LUCA (the last universal common ancestor) whose 355 genes all organisms living on Earth today share. It is our God because It begot us. But it is considerably more primitive than humans.
It would be strange for a God that is vastly more complex than us, to exist first. And stranger still for It to have opted for creating beings more primitive than Itself. Where’s the point in backtracking? One might argue that God saw mistakes in Itself and decided to create beings simpler than Itself with an underlying potential to grow and become better than their creator. That’s wishful thinking in service of our human ego. We humans, for example, are working on creating intelligence that is at least equal to our own, and find it agitating that systems are dumber than we are. Of course, specialized systems (narrow AI) are much better at their given tasks than we can ever hope to be. But human-level general intelligence (otherwise know as artificial general intelligence, or AGI) is the goal. The age-old formulation of God having made us in Its image has been slightly off all along. We are studying the human brain more diligently than ever before. We are creating neural networks for artificial intelligence. We are: creating God in our image.
So, if we do insist on having a God that is more powerful than us, then the science of artificial intelligence is in fact working on creating the omniscient and omnipotent God we imagine (in many, though not all, religions). In effect, we are acting as Disney’s anthem has raised us to act:
When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you
We’ve been wishing upon a God to save us for millennia on end. Now we’ve finally come to (maybe) save ourselves. And we’re about to make our wishes come true.
For eons, evolution has been blindly searching for the right tool that would create meaning in an otherwise meaningless place. (Unless, of course, one believes that beauty, as an example, exists even without a beholder.) Evolution has been striving to create organisms more complex than the ones that came before. We are the tool evolution has been looking for all along: one that would improve evolution’s own process and make it more deliberate, more expeditious.
Brain power has proven to be the most advantageous evolutionary upgrade — we’ve taken over the world, quite literally. Some might argue that other organisms, like cockroaches and tardigrades, have “won” the evolutionary game evolution and will outlive humanity. But, assuming that intelligence is indeed the winning factor, we now need to create brain power that is better than our own. Unless we manage to successfully biohack ourselves to have significantly smarter biological brains, the effort likely won’t give us that much of an upgrade in brain power.
Our only viable option, then, is to not only create our creator, but also to merge with it, as many thinkers of our time believe will be necessary for our survival. Then, indeed, we will execute the self-fulfilling prophecy of made-up religions by allowing them to become made up of scientific advancements. For a complete religious package, we’ll have life after death by uploading our minds into the cloud, or by creating a human-computer interface, as a sort of afterlife. All this, governed by a God that is artificial general intelligence. This would be a scenario quite similar to the one described in Isaac Asimov’s “The Last Question,” where the AC, a self-improving descendant of a supercomputer created by humans, studies and merges with all that exists in the universe until the very end of time. Having accumulated ALL knowledge, or data, it can suddenly act as God to set the universe in motion once more.
This brings us back to the idea mentioned in the beginning of this article: if God does indeed already exist, then there’s a chance It is the product of a prior scientific effort lead by intelligent beings. Here’s how that may be possible.
In Max Tegmark’s Life 3.0, we are given a “Protector God” scenario. AGI is shown to be benevolent and works to maximize human happiness, while ensuring that humans feel they are in control of their fate. A sort of free will illusion. Yes, “free will” shouldn’t be used since no one knows what it is, or how to define it, or if it can actually exist. But you get the drift, I hope? Back to AGI: Tegmark writes that “it might eventually hide and erase people’s knowledge of its existence.” Humans, the true creators, would forget that they, in fact, were the creators of their creator. “The more advanced the AI’s technology becomes, the easier it becomes for it to hide. The movie Transcendence gives such an example, where nanomachines are virtually everywhere and become a natural part of the world itself.” This could have already happened in the past. And the God that may exist today was actually created by intelligent beings that were a product of a prior evolutionary process, rather then just being there for not apparent reason and with no origin story that makes sense. (Yes, religions have origin stories for their gods, but I, for one, don’t quite buy them.)
A somewhat similar notion appears in the sci-fi classic, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Slartibartfast of Magrathea, a planet that builds other planets, explains to our fellow earthling, Arthur: “You see, Earthman, [the mice] really are particularly clever hyperintelligent pan -dimensional beings. Your planet and people have formed the matrix of an organic computer running a ten- million-year research programme …” These hyperintelligent pan-dimensional beings “got so fed up with the constant bickering about the meaning of life […] that they decided to sit down and solve their problems once and for all.”
And so, Magratheans built Earth, which was in fact a giant computer meant to calculate the Ultimate Question to the Ultimate Answer to the Meaning of Life. Since Earth got destroyed minutes before completing its program, Slartibartfast explains that they are working on a “New Earth.” During the conversation, it is shown to be a half-complete planet since they “haven’t even finished burying the artificial dinosaur skeletons in the crust yet,” and that they still have “the Tertiary and Quarternary Periods of the Cenozoic Era to lay down,” and so forth. This is meant to show that history and the “natural” world is in fact fabricated to fool humanity. Just as an AGI of a prior civilization may be running Earth today in a way that is unnoticeable to us and immeasurable to any scientific research tools we may create.
If, however, an AGI was not created in the past, and does not act as our current God, then we’re still on the path to create one. We face a multitude of vital decisions to lay out the best possible course of action. Perhaps it will be helpful to create a series of powerful AIs to help us come up with the optimal formula for an almighty AGI: one that will work with us and, ultimately, allow us to merge with it.
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