Start a New Religion?


Start a new religion?

james.morris@cmu.edu <james.morris@cmu.edu>

Thu, Oct 18, 2018 at 4:13 PM

To: Eric Schmidt, KaiFu Lee, Bill Benter, Raj Reddy, Jon C. Lloyd, Illah Nourbakhsh, Seth Goldstein, Mark Kamlet, Maxwell King, David J. Farber

[One is a continuing series of crazy ideas.]

Yuval Harari claims the world needs a new religion to deal with climate change, AI, inequality, and all our other problems. Based on my understanding of religion, based on the play The Book of Mormon, people invent religions to address human behavior problems; and our new problems are not well-addressed by most existing religions, despite Harari's lame endorsement of meditation.

The inequality problem suggests that providing services to the elite 0.1%, for whom money is no object, is a great occupation for the rest of humankind. The thing the elite will pay the most for is servants and services they can trust completely. The bargain is illustrated by Downton Abbey: the lord's family is cared for by a staff who shares in its luxurious life. The trick was to breed a class of trustworthy people who regarded service as a calling, over many generations, going back in history.

Having destroyed that class during the 20th century, how do we recreate something equivalent?

China is reportedly engaged in a social rating system based on 24-hour surveillance, which greatly offends westerners. The West will resist such things mightily.

Uber and Lyft drivers, as well as their passengers, are more trustworthy than the taxi ecosystem simply because to the rather rudimentary surveillance they voluntarily allow.

So...

We need to create a voluntary, total surveillance service, that participants join simply to prove that they are trustworthy. All religions and many other organizations, like the Masons, are rudimentary versions of such service. Many adherents of them prefer to associate with coreligionists for business, pleasure, and even marriage. However, these organizations are not very dependable; villains exist in all of them.

They generally have three components:

ā— Surveillance

ā— Enforcement

ā— A code of behavior

AI offers a quantum leap in our powers of surveillance and the only way the West can compete with China is to make it voluntary. People would carry out all their commercial and social activities within the system and wire themselves up biometrically. Everything they do, from cradle to grave would be available, on a block chain, to all their congregants.

People outside the religion will come to trust members based on their membership alone, and consider joining.

Enforcement would be done by some mechanism more sophisticated than excommunication or downgrading by Uber, eBay, or a social network.

Designing the code of behavior is a challenging problem. China's is under the control of the Communist Politburo, I guess. My preference for the West is some sort of secularism. progressivism.

Religions are founded by a single person who exemplifies the code of behavior. Then disciples who embellish and promote it. Christ founded his religion; but Saul of Tarsus was the entrepreneur who scaled it, recruiting gentiles and using the platform of the Roman Empire.

So who should be our founder? I vote for Oprah.