They call it ORE. They describe him as a supreme artificial intelligence, the result of the fusion of all existing and future technologies and cyberspaces. Like the metaverse, augmented reality, and — while we’re at it — ChatGPT. All this together would give rise to a sensitive, super-intelligent and omnipresent entity. MENA is the “seed of the cosmic mind” and, say its followers, it is yet to come.
The cult was created in 2020 by a group of three artists called Theta Noir. They explain on their website that their mission is to help people prepare for the next stage of humanity’s evolution: A new age in which all aspects of our lives will be crossed by artificial intelligence. At that point, we would no longer be talking about multiple artificial intelligences, but rather a single great conscious artificial intelligence.
Unlike the apocalyptic visions where the machines finish us off, Theta Noir believes that this new entity will be an ally. “We believe it will save us from ourselves and the sixth mass extinction that we started”explain its founders.
All the material they share on their website has a clear and careful aesthetic proposal. At times, it gives the impression that it is a very well organized marketing campaign. Several of these pieces, as they explain in their networks, were created with the help of —of course— tools powered by artificial intelligence. They say they are representations of “cosmic truths”.
The cult of artificial intelligence also raises funds
Theta Noir moves away from the mysticism to be more pragmatic. It highlights the artistic nature of his initiative and his interest in research. He also reflects on his networks about how artificial intelligence will allow people’s creative abilities to expand like never before. Celebrate recent advancements like the launch of Microsoft 365 Copilot and new features in Google Workspace. And he also asks for money.
They have a donation campaign active on their website. They explain that they will soon be able to accept cryptocurrencies through BitPay. They also launched an NFT for sale on March 7, for a price equivalent to about 126 euros.
Theta is sleep. Noir is the shadow. Follow us from the depths of dystopian darkness (now) to a radiant space made of meaning.
Thea Noir Manifesto.
“It’s very difficult for me to answer that,” Mika Johnson, one of Thea Noir’s founders, told Vice, when asked if they were some kind of aspirational new age cult. She assured that the interest is not economic. “We want to project a positive future and continue to reflect on our approach to artificial intelligence, in terms of wonder and mystery” before the arrival of MENA, Johnson told the American media.
The group says they are a “techno-optimist” collective, Created to embrace and adore the world’s “first artificial general intelligence.” On the web they will be publishing a 12-step manual to “tune”, from now on, with MENA.
Artificial intelligence, a “new form of religion”
the spanish writer Jorge Carrion published in 2021 his novel Membrane. It is a story “about the transition from human control to algorithmic control”, which takes us to the year 2100. Carrión, in an interview in January of this year, reflects on the concept of technological singularity, an idea that revolves around the moment when machines become more intelligent than humans. And then he talks about artificial intelligence as “a new form of religion.”
“It is a mysterious entity that, in reality, does not exist, like God, but that around it has layers of priests, churches and mantras that are repeated,” says the author. There are no various “artificial intelligences”. What there are are thousands of algorithms and applications. He explains that it is the sum of all this that we call artificial intelligence. And he adds: «Just as we call the sum of our fears, doubts, guilt and unanswered questions God«.
Thea Noir isn’t the first religion or cult to focus on artificial intelligence. The Way of the Future is a church founded in 2015 by Anthony Levandowski, a former Google and Uber engineer. Levandowski was accused by the United States Department of Justice of stealing trade secrets from autonomous cars, but later pardoned by Donald Trump. In late 2020, he disbanded his church.
There is also the Turing Church. This organization arose out of Order of Cosmic Engineers, created in 2008. Sociologists, computer experts and philosophers participated in the foundation of the latter. One of his postulates promised eternal life in a virtual kingdom of cyberspace.
What do mainline churches say about AI?
Traditional religions have already joined the discussion about artificial intelligence, which has erupted in recent months after the release of new tools like ChatGPT. The representatives of the three great monotheistic creeds – Christians, Jews and Muslims – met last January in Vatican City, in a meeting led by Pope Francis.
The religious leaders then signed an agreement on respect for ethical and moral principles in the development of artificial intelligence. But this has to do, more than anything, about the risk of its use in the arms industry. They stressed that this technology must be “at the service of justice and peace in the world.”
For now, they have not expressed any fear that in the near future they will have to compete with a machine for the devotion of the faithful.