The internet as god

The internet as god September 8, 2016

The internet is everywhere.  It knows everything about you.  It will solve all of our problems.  It will protect us.  The singularity will create a new world.  When we download our consciousness into the web, we will have eternal life.  Doesn’t that sound as if the internet is a god?

Werner Herzog’s documentary film Lo and Behold:  Reveries of the Connected World. explores the religious dimensions of the internet.  Martyn Smith, in a review of the film excerpted after the jump, draws them out.

From Martyn Smith, Lo and Behold, the Sacredness of the Internet | Religion Dispatches:

Herzog sees the relation of the net to religion, featuring a statement by cosmologist Lawrence Krauss: “We’re going to have a revolution not only in our technology, but in our theology. We don’t even have a name for it.”

It can certainly be argued that the internet has taken over domains we traditionally assign to theology. For example, it has captured our imagination of the future, both for good and evil. Herzog supplies us with apocalyptic speculation as to the destruction that will result from a sizeable solar flare that might destroy our tech infrastructure. Then there’s the Dark Internet and its mysterious forces that might someday bring down the world we take more and more for granted (which feels like an updated form of spiritual warfare). When we collectively dream of a positive future for humanity it often begins to look like the interplanetary human existence proposed by Elon Musk. . . .

The point of view presented by Herzog is more closely related to that of the “Church of Google” (a website that was taken down, but which has been recently revived as the Reformed Church of Google). The argument of the Church is that the search engine is the closest thing to God that humans will ever know: Google is present everywhere, so it’s omnipresent; Google knows pretty much everything we ask it, so it’s omniscient; Google professes to do no evil, so it’s omnibenevolent. On it goes.

Another tech documentary, Transcendent Man (2009), on the life and thought of Ray Kurzweil, offers yet another view of the internet’s relationship to theology. Assuming the continued operation of Moore’s Law, Kurzweil believes that in just a matter of years we will find ourselves in the midst of an event known as the Singularity, at which point artificial intelligence will take off on its own and recreate our world. Kurzweil sets out predictions of his own personal immortality that an ancient Egyptian would have easily understood. Like in Herzog’s Lo and Behold, at points the line is crossed from tech speculation into theological assertion.

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