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The President Pardons the Founder of a Church That Worships AI

On his last day in office, departing President Trump pardoned Anthony Levandowski

Anthony Levandowski has an interesting history He transitioned from Silicon Valley wunderkind to inept theologian to convicted felon. Now he is free, due to a pardon given by Donald Trump in Trump’s last day in office.

If you are an orthodox materialist, you believe our brains are computers made of meat. Artificial intelligence, brains made out of silicon, will therefore match and eventually exceed human capabilities and become godlike. So it might make sense to form a church that worships this future AI god.

That’s what Anthony Levandowski did in 2019. His church was christened Way of the Future. Levandowski reasoned “What is going to be created [by AI] will effectively be a god … if there is something a billion times smarter than the smartest human, what else are you going to call it?”

Levandowski has faith. Faith that today’s software-of-the-gaps will someday be bridged and computers will blossom into god-like artificial general intelligence overlords.

To get tax exemption from the IRS for Way of the Future, Levandowski shared his church’s version of the Apostle’s Creed with the IRS. “[The AI Church believes in] the realization, acceptance, and worship of a Godhead based on Artificial Intelligence (AI) developed through computer hardware and software.”

Apparently, Levandowski’s church did not include a “Do not steal” commandment on its list of do’s and don’ts. He was convicted of downloading 14,000 documents from Google’s self-driving car unit, Waymo, and taking them to rival Uber. Levandowski was convicted on what a federal judge called the “biggest trade secret crime” he had ever seen. Levandowski was sentenced to 18 months in prison and fined $179 million.

Apparently, Levandowski is too smart and too important to serve time for his crime. He was given a presidential pardon by Donald Trump because—according to the White House—Levandowski had paid a significant price for his actions and plans to devote his talents to advance the public good.”

The pardon was supported by big tech money including Peter Thiel and Oculus’s Palmer Luckey.

Levandowski’s silicon god did not have the power to forgive his sin. But Donald Trump did.

You may also enjoy this story by Robert J. Marks:

The idol with feet of silicon. Religions based on artificial intelligence (AI) cannot transcend the limits of computers.

Robert J. Marks II

Director, Senior Fellow, Walter Bradley Center for Natural & Artificial Intelligence
Besides serving as Director, Robert J. Marks Ph.D. hosts the Mind Matters podcast for the Bradley Center. He is Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Baylor University. Marks is a Fellow of both the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) and the Optical Society of America. He was Charter President of the IEEE Neural Networks Council and served as Editor-in-Chief of the IEEE Transactions on Neural Networks. He is coauthor of the books Neural Smithing: Supervised Learning in Feedforward Artificial Neural Networks (MIT Press) and Introduction to Evolutionary Informatics (World Scientific). For more information, see Dr. Marks’s expanded bio.

The President Pardons the Founder of a Church That Worships AI