Artificial Intelligence and Technological Millenarianism

Technological millenarianism refers to beliefs that technological innovations will bring a new golden age or alternatively the destruction of the human race.

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The use of ‘millenarianism’ here is in the looser sense of events that bring about a sudden change that is predicted to be either a perfecting of humanity, a millennium, or an apocalypse. Technology is interpreted as salvific, the answer to all human social and physical problems.

Technological millenarianism has existed for decades. It is particularly prominent in the US among ‘quasi-religious groups’ of believers in the soteriological power of technological innovation (Bozeman 1997, 155). This power is thought to offer the promise of species-level and individual salvation, in the form of eternal life granted through technological improvements particularly in the realms of computing and biotechnology. The advent of artificial intelligence, changes to human physiology made possible through genetic engineering, and the development of machine-human hybrids or ‘cyborgs’ are all predicted to produce radical transformation in the current social order.

The optimistic view is that these advancements will offer immortality and a golden age of peace and prosperity created by humans. This could be interpreted as a form of postmillennialism, where people create the millennium through gradual action in the present. The pessimistic view is that these same developments could lead to the eradication of the human race, either through a form of self-annihilation or through erasing human distinctiveness in relation to machines. This is a form apocalyptic thinking. More moderate predictions advanced suggest that technology leads to a better quality of life even if it does not ultimately lead to eternal life.