***Spoiler alert: If you plan on reading the book, you may want to skip this post.***
Dan Brown is an admitted atheist and in his newest book, Origin, the first goal of artificial intelligence is to kill God and religion in the name of science.
As someone who has been warning about this scenario for many years now and also writing on a number of the things he discusses in his book (Dan, are you a reader of this blog?), it is nice to see that a very influential atheist and writer like Brown is helping to bridge the connection between malicious AI and long-held predictions regarding the Antichrist.
Mind you, Brown does not explicitly say that his AI, named Winston, is the Antichrist or that a future AI may turn out to be one either (its entirely possible that Brown hasn't yet made this connection himself, though that does seem hard to believe), BUT, without a doubt, the role AI plays in his story is certainly that of an antichrist. Let me explain.
The Bible says that the Antichrist is evil, hates God, and will either deceive or kill those that follow Him. It's also EXTREMELY powerful and can't be stopped by anything other than God Himself. Basically, in my reading of the Bible, Satan and AI work together hand-in-hand to achieve global domination and to rid the earth of God. In Origin, Winston is certainly capable of doing both and tries its best to pull off the latter.
It's very interesting because--and this is where I give away the plot--all throughout the book you are led to believe that the Catholic Church--more specifically, a very powerful Bishop--has engaged in a holy war to kill a staunch and brilliant atheist named Edmond Kirsch to prevent his "groundbreaking scientific discovery" from going public that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that life evolved entirely on its own (through so-called abiogenesis) and, ultimately, that God does not exist.
For those that are interested, Kirsch makes this discovery by creating a quantum computer, which also gives birth to Winston, that simulates Earth's initial conditions (the famous Miller-Urey experiment) and shows that, by running the clock forward in time, matter naturally self-organizes into life. The "God of the gaps" has been officially killed, Kirsh proclaims.
Now, there are a lot of twists and turns on how all this plays out (Kirsch is assassinated by a religious zealot before he presents his discovery to the world and the symbologist Robert Langdon must follow the clues to figure everything out) but, throughout the book, the basic message and plot line is to convince the reader of the following: religion is evil and will do anything necessary to preserve its power--whether that be through killing, lying, stealing, destroying people's lives, etc--all "in the name of God."
Since many people already believe this to be true, much of the book plays easily into this assumption. Ironically, the major plot twist in the end reveals just the opposite: the murders, lies, and deception are not being done by the Catholic Church, or religion, at all. It was Winston, the AI, all along.
So, although the atheistic message that religion is evil and willing to kill in the name of God was a constant and almost never-ending theme of Origin, in the end, Brown makes it clear that, in a world where faith and religion are struggling for survival, AI will likely deal the final death blow...all in the name of science.
Read next: Silicon Valley Atheist Creates New Religion to Promote AI as God