Deus ex machina: the dangers of AI godbots

Something weird is happening in the world of AI. On Jesus-ai.com, you can pose questions to an artificially intelligent Jesus: ‘Ask Jesus AI about any verses in the Bible, law, love, life, truth!’ The app Delphi, named after the Greek oracle, claims to solve your ethical dilemmas. Several bots take on the identity of Krishna to answer your questions about what a good Hindu should do. Meanwhile, a church in Nuremberg recently used ChatGPT in its liturgy – the bot, represented by the avatar of a bearded man, preached that worshippers should not fear death.  Elon Musk put his finger on it: AI is starting to look ‘godlike’. The historian

AA only admits the right sort of alcoholics

The support group groupies have issued another ban. They have attempted to slap an exclusion order on another long-standing member, in addition to the one they have meted out to my friend, the bricklayer. This latest victim hasn’t been to a meeting in Surrey for seven years because the last time he went, the local area committee accused him of something so Orwellian it was impossible for him to do anything other than leave. They accused him of believing in God too much. During a ridiculous row over whether members should be forced to applaud the giving out of sobriety chips, this fellow wouldn’t back down in his belief that

Fleeing paradise: eden, by Jim Crace, reviewed

Since announcing his retirement in 2013, Jim Crace has had more comebacks than Kanye West, something for which we should all be thankful. Craceland is a compelling place to visit, full of hazy yet broadly recognisable locations (Tudoresque England in the IMPAC award winning Harvest; a vaguely Mediterranean town in Melody) and spanning indeterminate times (the post-apocalyptic future in The Pesthouse; the end of the Stone Age in The Gift of Stones). The specific non-specificity of his fiction reflects Crace’s view of himself as more of a storyteller than a novelist, and his sense of history as a largely unwritten – and therefore often forgotten – phenomenon. In this, eden

My phone call with God

Got slightly wrecked over the bank holiday weekend and had hoped to kind of glide through the early part of the week without too much requirement for that bane of the columnist, research – looking stuff up, talking to people, etc. But I crawled downstairs on Tuesday, switched on the laptop and there was a message bearing the address s.fidelis@almighty.com: ‘Hey Rod, I might have something for you. Give me a call x.’ I hadn’t heard from Semp for three or four years, when he was a canny and ambitious junior press officer, helpful, disinclined to panic, never obsequious. Slightly grating Cardiff accent but other than that, a good sort.

A playful version of the universe: Pure Colour, by Sheila Heti, reviewed

Readers familiar with Sheila Heti’s work, most notably How Should a Person Be? and Motherhood, in which she examines both the possibility and implications of choosing one’s life and dealing with the consequences, will be familiar with her apparent capriciousness. Her prose — freewheeling, elliptical, a tangle of jokiness and jeopardy — seems to capture the puzzle of proportionality: how seriously should we take this one life we have, and how can we hope to balance our opposing urges towards levity and gravity? In Pure Colour, we appear to be in similar territory, immediately introduced to a playful version of the universe in which humans are the critics of God’s

A podcast that listens to what anti-vaxxers think rather than lecturing them

Work is our new religion. There are people whose primary job is writing listicles of celebrity gossip, illustrated with gifs from the Fast & Furious franchise, who refer to being a writer as a ‘calling’. If I think about this for too long my brain simply shuts down to protect itself. What we used to do for God we now do for our work. In a secular culture, it seems totally normal — admirable, even — to sacrifice the possibility of having a family, to give up all leisure time, to starve yourself or live on insane, totally made-up diets like intermittent fasting or paleo for the sake of your