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Roko’s Basilisk or Pascal’s? Thinking of Singularity Thought Experiments as Implicit Religion

Issue: Vol 20 No. 3 (2017) Special Issue: Artificial Intelligence and Religion. Guest Editor: Beth Singler

Journal: Implicit Religion

Subject Areas: Religious Studies

DOI: 10.1558/imre.35900


In 2010 a thought experiment speculating on the motivations and aims of a potential superintelligent Artificial Intelligence, sometimes known as the ‘Singularity’, caused uproar and anxiety on the forum board where it was initially posted. This paper considers that thought experiment’s debt to older forms of religious argument, the reactions from among the community, and how expectations about the Singularity as a being with agency can be considered to be an example of implicit religion. This is significant as the thought experiment appeared in a field of research, AI, considered by many to be secular due to its technological focus. The communities under discussion also explicitly express their aim of ‘perfecting’ human rationality, and place that ability in opposition to ‘religion’ as a derided object and the aims of ‘Goddists’ in general. This tension between overt atheism and secular communities’ return to religious tropes and narratives is relevant for the wider study of religion in the contemporary era.

Author: Beth Singler

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