Not much of a eulogy at the demise of not much of a church of artificial intelligence

It turns out that Anthony Levandowski’s Way of the Future Church wasn’t the way anyone was looking for: TechCrunch recently posted about that WotF is closing its virtual doors. I can’t say I’m surprised. But as I’ll note at the end, I’m a bit disappointed by the way WotF is fading away.

robot angel from pixy.org

WotF was officially dedicated to bringing about a post-Singularity transition to machine intelligence. Naturally, its announcement in 2017 led to a brief media splash, and I got occasional interest from journalists seeking my opinion on the organization. I find the announcements of the group’s collapse consonant with announcements of its existence: there are no people other than Levandowski who get mentioned. Levandowski, better known for his legal conflicts over self-driving cars, was running a more-or-less one-man show. I suppose some folks must have joined the online rolls, but the total absence of group activity testifies to the absence of real commitment. A religion whose sole purpose is not to uplift humanity but to replace it seems pretty questionable from the get-go. Not too many folks are ready to flock to that banner. So perhaps it’s not surprising that the website now contains almost no content–but somehow does have reviews of fidget cubes and sewing machines. It seems the website was more likely a competitor to Consumer Reports than Roman Catholicism. But I don’t recall whatever used to be on the site prior to the legal dissolution of WotF.

This collapse reminds me of when the Extropy Institute closed up shop in the early 2000s, declaring itself to have “substantially accomplished its goals” or somesuch. Of course, no one could really justify a claim that the group had successfully moved transhumanist thinking into the mainstream (that was still a few more years off), and I’m not really sure what led them to disband (many of the members continue to play key roles in other transhumanist organizations, so it certainly wasn’t a crisis of faith). But I think it’s relevant that when Extropy Institute dissolved, it left a meaningful web presence behind: there are archives, the Principles of Extropy, and more. I think it says something about the intellectual mission of Extropy Institute’s founders that they’ve maintained a website and its content. And it says something about WotF’s founder (and faithful?) that they’ve left a review of fidget cubes.

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