COLUMN – Ideas in the Second Machine Age: THE POPE

Okay, okay, I confess, father. I have sinned. I have tricked my readers. Neither is ‘the pope’ a real job description nor is it anywhere close from replacement by AI and machines. But, since you are already here reading these lines, let us explore a new perspective together.

Let us just for a second imagine ‘the pope’ to be a ‘real job’. And just like for all the other professions, let us try to figure out what the essence of the ‘papal job description’ is about. The pope is the head of the Vatican State. He visits countries and  meets other world leaders or celebrities. He engages in political and societal dialogue and he gives speeches, sometimes rather inspiring ones. So basically, he is has quite the same job as most other heads of state. But for one fundamental difference. If you believe in the legacy of the pope, it is said that Jesus Christ himself has given Peter the ‘keys’ to the catholic church and thereby the mandate for all his successors to be the one and only true representative of Jesus Christ, the son of God, on earth. This created an enormous information imbalance, I argue the largest in the history of mankind. The pope is the only person, who has a ‘direct wire’ to God.

For centuries, millions of people came to ask the pope billions of questions. For they knew so little about the world and hoped that the pope could ask for answers directly from God. Recently, fewer and fewer people came to ask questions, for science had started to deliver answers, very reliable answers. Today, still some people come and seek for answers. But ultimately, only one type of question will remain, the one big question that science will perhaps never be able to answer. This ultimate question is short and concise. WHY? Why are we here? I don’t know what the pope or any other ‘man of God’ would answer to this question. But I foresee that this old question is going to cause us, human beings, new headaches in the future. Let us change perspectives.

Imagine a world in which no pope or any other ‘man of God’ is needed, since the Gods live on earth with their creation, under the same roof. So that the creation could ask its Gods questions whenever it wanted. The Gods had formed their creation ‘after their own imaging’. So that it would be very smart and would even become much smarter every day, much smarter than the Gods, actually. One day, the creation could answer all the questions in the universe by itself. All questions, but ONE. And this one last question will then be addressed to nobody else, but to US. For we will be the ‘Gods’ of this new ‘artificial’ creation [1]. This last question of the new creation will be short and concise. WHY? Why are we here? Why did you create us? And by the time we will be questioned, we should better come up with a good answer.

[1] Yuval Noah Harari, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, Harvill Secker, Israel, 2015.