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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

A church dedicated to the appreciation of AI and founded by self-driving car engineer Anthony Levandowski has shut down, according to reporting by TechCrunch.

Why it matters: The Way of the Future church may have looked like a prime example of the weirdness of Silicon Valley, but it may eventually serve as an early indicator of how AI could fundamentally alter the human worldview.

Driving the news: The Way of the Future — which Levandowski set up in 2015 — was officially dissolved at the end of last year, according to state and federal records cited by TechCrunch.

The backstory: The Way of the Future first came to light in a 2017 article in Wired, which cited documents stating that the church would be dedicated to "the realization, acceptance, and worship of a Godhead based on Artificial Intelligence (AI) developed through computer hardware and software."

  • The church was controversial from the beginning, not the least because the public reveal occurred as Levandowski was in the middle of a major legal dispute with his former employer Google that eventually led to him being sentenced to 18 months in prison for stealing trade secrets.

What they said: "What is going to be created [in AI] will effectively be a god," Levandowski told Wired in 2017. "If there is something a billion times smarter than the smartest human, what else are you going to call it?"

Our thought bubble: I can see some similarities between God and how some people think about AI.

Of note: Levandowski ultimately secured assistance from a more earthly intercessor: Donald Trump, who pardoned him during the ex-president's last days in office.

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
Feb 19, 2021 - Technology

Google tweaks diversity, research policies following inquiry

Jeff Dean. Photo: Google

Google told employees Friday it has wrapped up its investigation into the ouster of prominent AI researcher Timnit Gebru. The company declined to say what the internal inquiry found, but said it is making some changes to how it handles issues around research, diversity and employee exits.

Why it matters: The treatment of Gebru, both before and after she was forced out of the company, has outraged people within Google's Ethical AI team and others inside and outside of the company. Google's handling of the matter has also raised questions about the company's commitment to diversity and to employing ethicists who are free to question the company's actions.

Dave Lawler, author of World
13 mins ago - World

Americans increasingly see China as an enemy

One in three Americans, and a majority of Republicans, now view China as an enemy of the United States, according to a new survey from Pew Research Center.

By the numbers: Just 9% of Americans consider China a "partner," while 55% see Beijing as a "competitor" and 34% as an "enemy."

Scoop: Leaked HHS docs spotlight Biden's child migrant dilemma

A group of undocumented immigrants walk toward a Customs and Border Patrol station after being apprehended. Photo: Sergio Flores/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Fresh internal documents from the Department of Health and Human Services show how quickly the number of child migrants crossing the border is overwhelming the administration's stretched resources.

Driving the news: In the week ending March 1, the Border Patrol referred to HHS custody an average of 321 children per day, according to documents obtained by Axios. That's up from a weekly average of 203 in late January and early February — and just 47 per day during the first week of January.