The Sacralization of AI and the AI-zation of the Sacred

The presence of AI, in the form of smart technologies and machines, is rapidly becoming an intrinsic part of our lives. It teaches, guides, advises, and entertains us, and at times seems to know better than we do which media best fit our own views or what we want for dinner. It also threatens to further polarize human societies by locking individuals and groups into their own political and ideological bubbles without the opportunity, or even the intention, to interact civilly with “opponents.”

The increasing pervasion of AI raises a variety of ethical, political, legal, and practical concerns. It prompts apocalyptic forecasts and warnings that Skynet is no longer on the distant horizon but is a rapidly approaching, existentially dangerous reality. AI’s growth also motivates efforts to understand AI and its place in our worldview. These efforts traditionally go far beyond the purely scientific or philosophical. Art, literature, and multiple spiritual practices provide heuristic techniques and language to explain the phenomena of algorithm and artificial intelligence, as well as determine the goals and foresee the consequences of bringing smart machines into our lives.

Following our previous series on (un)friendly algorithms and human rights, this series traces the historical roots of using machines for spiritual purposes and elaborates on AI’s influence on religious expression in the contemporary world (Panin); discusses the phenomenon of the sacralization of AI as a new “omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent” deity (Razmetaeva); argues that AI encourages the commodification of religious experiences, turning believers into consumers of “superior religious services” (Eddebo); and asserts that “tech giants and their algorithms” are the latest iteration of destructive monsters that have oppressed human freedom and rights since early modern times (Rochow).

Posts in the Series:

Stanislav Panin. Challenges and Promises of Artificial Intelligence in Religion

Yulia Razmetaeva. Sacralization of AI

Johan Eddebo. AI and Commodification of Religion

Neville Rochow. Another Case of Déjà-Vu: The Sacrifice of Conscience to Monsters