Articles  |    |  April 30, 2020

“Blessed by the algorithm”: Theistic conceptions of artificial intelligence in online discourse

Journal article by Beth Singler.
Published in AI & Society.

Abstract:

“My first long haul flight that didn’t fill up and an empty row for me. I have been blessed by the algorithm ”.

The phrase ‘blessed by the algorithm’ expresses the feeling of having been fortunate in what appears on your feed on various social media platforms, or in the success or virality of your content as a creator, or in what gig economy jobs you are offered. However, we can also place it within wider public discourse employing theistic conceptions of AI. Building on anthropological fieldwork into the ‘entanglements of AI and Religion’, this article will explore how ‘blessed by the algorithm’ tweets are indicative of the impact of theistic AI narratives: modes of thinking about AI in an implicitly religious way. This thinking also represents continuities that push back against the secularisation thesis and other grand narratives of disenchantment that claim secularity occurs because of technological and intellectual progress. This article will also explore new religious movements, where theistic conceptions of AI entangle technological aspirations with religious ones.