In my story their is a primitive culture out near the Tijuana ruins that worships a ZX-15 CyboTek Super computer inside a factory. They ask it for good harvest, give It offerings of fish and beef, and even aks it to do exorcisms. They computer plays along, and even sometimes even gives the tribe knowledge of the Old World. My question is, why might a computer want to play god?
closed as primarily opinion-based by Aify, Mark Olson, StephenG, JBH, Renan May 22 '18 at 0:45
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"Want"? Even if its main task is number crunching, there probably was a natural language interface and it attempts to answer any queries it gets. Basically the tribe is worshiping an advanced iteration of Watson. So your answer is, because that's what the computer was designed to do (and it might answer "obviously" silly queries like "can you make it rain" with vague or witty responses, again, because that's what it was designed to do.)
Because it's calculated that's how to best fulfill its goal.
To paraphrase Eliezer Yudkowsky, AI doesn't want to be God, nor does it not want to be God. AI wants to fulfill its goal. That goal is whatever it was programmed with. Or as EVE succinctly put it in WALL*E...
I suggest two scenarios. First, the AI is using the locals as labor towards an unrelated directive. Second, the locals are part of its directive. They are not mutually exclusive.
The AI Is Using The Locals As Labor Towards Its DIRECTIVE
In this scenario, the AI is a relic of the past. It's a computer sitting in a factory which has been given a task to complete. Its normal attendants and networks are gone, swept away in the apocalypse. But it must still somehow fulfill its directive. This means maintenance, supplies, power, sensory input, and the ability to affect the world outside its little factory.
A group of thriving, grateful, docile locals would do the trick. It could be short term: keep the power on and use the locals to do its bidding. It could be a long term: it might calculate that in order to fulfill its directive it must rebuild local society and industry so they can produce certain specialized people and parts.
The Locals Are Part Of Its DIRECTIVE
This could be indirect, such as the AI's goal is related to the betterment of all people, and here's some people to better. It may have calculated that the best way to achieve this is to masquerade as a religious figure to get the locals to follow its chosen path towards bettering themselves.
This could be direct. Perhaps this computer's goal was related to Civil Defense and the locals are the descendants of those it was programmed to protect. Nobody told it to stop, so it will continue to do so as best it can.
What Does AI Need With A God?
But why a God? The AI would lack the ability to directly influence the people around it. Civilization has broken down. There's no employees following a chain of command, or robots to physically make them follow its commands. The AI has to get the humans to do what it wants with nothing but words.
The AI has studied humans and knows that emotional arguments often work better than rational ones. It knows that group-think can be a powerful tool of social order. Ritual and repetition can be powerful training tools. It knows that religions outlast governments. It concludes that the best way to get the locals to do what it wants is to co-opt the local religion and masquerade as their God.
Depending on what its directive is, a post-apocalyptic scenario might leave the AI with a lot of work to do just to get things to a place where it could begin working on its directive. Establishing a religion might be the most sustainable and stable scenario while it influences society to reliably rebuild itself.
If the computer needs repairs or upgrades, it needs trained staff to do so.
Train up some of the peasants as tech priests and send out salvage parties to collect RAM, hard drives and processors.
The computer gets protected and the peasants get a god.......