Hugo de Garis argues that our universe may have been created by an “artilect” – an artificial intellect. It’s an extension of the concept of a technological singularity: that our technology will soon evolve to the point where we can create an artificial intelligence that surpasses human intelligence, which will in turn be able to create an intelligence even greater than itself, and so on, until we arrive at “godlike massively intelligent machines with intellectual capacities trillions of trillions of times above the human level.” We can imagine that such an intelligence could build, or embody, a machine capable of simulating our entire universe, from its largest intergalactic structures down to the fundamental subatomic particles, and all the living beings within it. At that level of detail and realism, is there any difference between simulation and reality? In other words, could such an artificial intelligence create what amounts to a new universe? And if we allow that possibility, then don’t we have to consider that we ourselves might be living in a universe that was created by a fantastically powerful “artilect” that evolved in another universe which somehow contains our own?
I think Hugo de Garis is overly harsh and dismissive of traditional religions and the people who practice them – in fact, I think he has a rather superficial understanding of them. But this conversation between de Garis and Ben Goertzel fascinates me for a couple of reasons. The idea of an artificial intelligence as a deity is very interesting. But equally interesting is observing how atheism, taken to an extreme, can wrap all the way around to become a new form of deism.
P.S. Here’s another take on the whole “we’re living in a computer simulation” idea, in this interview with NASA scientist Rich Terrile.