Saviors, Apocalypse, Salvation, Witch-Hunt, and the Road to Hell

No, these words are not from a book on medieval church history. They are from a recent article on artificial intelligence in New Atlantis, written by Adam Elkus. The article, moreover, also mentions spirits, demons, demonic forces, heresies, rituals – and again, this is not just a play with words. In a refreshingly erudite manner, it draws an analogy between our recent trust in algorithms to save us from ourselves and our more ancient belief in non-human agents to do the same. The author even uses Charles Taylor’s concepts of “porous” and “buffered” selves from his famous book A Secular Age in a way that is an overt criticism of the whole idea of so-called “secularization”.

To be sure, Elkus is no religious scholar, and this is still not an article on secularization or secular religions. It makes some very profound comments on human desires and the intentions to control them, while also points to some serious misunderstandings about human nature, ethics, and rationality. What seems nevertheless obvious is that a “religious” language (in this case, more precisely, the language of medieval Christianity) remains unavoidable when discussing any such question. This is no mistake, and not – or not only – a form of clickbait journalism.

Which all of us are forced to practice sometimes, anyway (see e.g. the title of this post). Or the picture below.

Tenture de l’Apocalypse au château d’Angers. Photo taken by Remi Jouan. Source: Wikimedia Commons.