We have changed. What we are now is all those algorithms. An algorithmic culture that is devotional. We supplicate ourselves to computers that have replaced gods in our minds, even as we simultaneously claim that science has, or should, made us impervious to religion.
“Enlightenment ideas like reason and science are beginning to flip into their opposites.” Science and technology “have turned into a new type of theology.” – Ian Bogost, Georgia Institute of Technology
Algorithms are gospel because we have made computers, in all their forms, our idols. Data becomes theologized. What is ‘big data,’ its name is information as a celestial infinity. Within that worship is algorithms as metaphor that conceals more than it reveals. It is mythical slang for the act of mistaking multipart complex systems for simple, singular ones. It is a worship that binds its practitioners into faith that any kind of computational social change is pre-determined and inevitable. And therefore…
Resistance is futile. Technological religiosity eases its adherents from any responsibility for their choices regarding development, adoption, and implementation of new technologies. Amazon is something we don’t have to think about, it is ‘there’. It offers same day delivery.
Algorithms turns computers into gods and their outputs as scripture.
That core of disciples are technically proficient, digitally minded people that reject traditional religions and superstitions. They have set out to come up with a better, more scientific framework. But then they re-create versions of those old religious superstitions. In the technical world these same superstitions are just as damaging, and in similar ways, as before.
This is not meant in a merely metaphorical sense, to suggest that technology is similar to religion in that it evokes religious emotions of omnipotence, devotion, and awe, or that it has become a new (secular) religion in and of itself, with its own clerical caste, arcane rituals, and articles of faith. Who, or what is Elon Musk, Bill Gates, what is Amazon?
AI research imbues a fixation on a god-like, disembodied intelligence, and that is our step towards personal immortality. The ‘Algorithmic‘ movement imagines a future that must come, when the distinction between machines and humans blur and humanity as we know it will be eclipsed. When humanity will play god and bestow god’s gifts on itself.
We will be the God to the universes we create.
This is not new, it is the endless Enlightenment, at this time vanquishing totally Religion and driving it far from the pure realm of Science and Technology. To the degree that our times Enlightenment’s assault on religious faith is successful, it empowers the religion of technology. It has been a long time in the coming. And now we are there, our belief system is transforming and turned inward to the idea of technical innovation as a primary agent of progress.
The religion of technology is the human account of how God might fulfill purposes that were initially revealed in incidental, pre-scientific garb. A religion of technology, not Christian heresy, but rather as (post?) Christian fan-fiction, our human ingenuity in the absence of divine action.