Think about it. People love and fear the Internet as they used to love and fear God. The internet is everywhere, holds all information and connects everyone. Pre-internet, nothing else could be said to hold these qualities except God. Unfortunately God is dead, or so say Nietzsche and John Proctor. From this, I went on a quest to find out if the Internet is God by, erm, searching the Internet.
So, the earliest instance of this idea I could find occurred nine years ago, the question “Is the Internet God” was posted to Yahoo answers (top answer- “Talk about RANDOM”). Almost everyone was of the impression that the Internet is not God. On the other hand, this was nine years ago when the internet was only just beginning to play a central role in our lives.
The first group I found holding these ideas were The Church of Google where the central tenant is that Google is the closest thing we have to God. The Church of Google’s proofs for Google’s divinity are as follows:
1) Google is omniscient
2) Google is omnipresent
3) Google answers prayers
4) Google is potentially immortal
5) Google is infinite
6) Google remembers everything
7) Google is omnibenevolent (don’t be evil)
8) “Google” is more searched for than any religious deity or term
9) Google exists
While these do apply to Google, most also apply to other search engines and the wider net in general. The first six proofs and proof nine all apply to the Internet in general. Proof seven is a play on the Google company slogan (Don’t Be Evil) and proof eight only proves that some people still don’t know how to work a search bar. In the end, Google is a corporation and therefore cannot be God (more on this later).
The debate over the holiness of the internet is ongoing within one group: The Missionary Church of Kopimism. Kopimism is a religion founded in Sweden that holds the act of copying to be sacred. Some consider this a political response to pro-copyright groups who endanger civil liberties by lobbying for laws which undermine information sharing but Kopimism is recognised as an actual religion in Sweden.
Some in Kopimism consider the Internet to be holy but this is disputed by the Maesters (according to Wikipedia). This makes sense as the Internet allows for an ease of copying and sharing that no other previous medium has allowed. The Australian branch of Kopimism does hold the Internet to be holy in their constitution. The idea of God is left open in Kopimism such as to allow free interpretation. So while it is feasible to interpret the Internet as God within the ideals of Kopimism, this idea is not necessarily constitutional to the church.
One man who believes he has found the God in the machine is Alexander Bard who founded the religion Syntheism on the premise that the Internet is God. Syntheism is the belief that we create (or will create) our own God through the network and is a response to the death of spirituality in the digital age. While I was initially dubious upon reading of the religion and its founder (Bard is a judge on the Swedish Pop Idol), one particularly interesting character who sees merit in Syntheism is Ray Kurzweil.
Ray Kurzweil proposes the idea of the Singularity (which you can read all about in Wait But Why’s fantastic article here), the point where an artificial intelligence entity overtakes human intelligence. This is significant as humans are the most dominant species on the planet as a direct result of our intelligence. If something shows up that’s more intelligent than us, it might fuck us up. Or lead us into a perfect future, human and machine working together in harmony. No one really knows as things will become pretty unpredictable at that point. This idea has become a movement in itself in the form of Singularitarianism, the belief that we should actively influence the forthcoming singularity towards good rather than evil.
In 2014, Google acquired DeepMind, a British artificial intelligence company. With the money and expertise that Google have, DeepMind could be a very promising contender as the almighty God-like super-intelligence.
So for now it would seem that the Internet is not God but it might be one day. Ray Kurzweil predicts 2045.