Erica Flores

Comma.ai founder George Hotz wants to liberate humanity …

What keeps George Hotz, the enigmatic hacker and founder of the self-driving company Comma.ai, up at night is not whether his self-driving car company will succeed or what other entrepreneurial venture he might undertake. No, instead, Hotz says he is tortured by the possibility that all of us are in an advanced simulation observed by an omnipotent extraterrestrial or supernatural being, or an artificial intelligence that is far beyond the realm of human conception and understanding. .

“There is no evidence that this is not true,” an animated Hotz told a crowd at his SXSW talk on Friday, titled “Jailbrealing the Simulation” and posted on the festival’s website as an exploration of whether to step out of a universe. simulated means we can “Find God” and kill him. “It’s easy to imagine things that are much smarter than you and could build a cage that you wouldn’t even recognize.”

“There is no evidence that this is not true.”

The theory, widely known as the simulation hypothesis, posits that life on Earth and by extension the Solar System and even the universe itself, is potentially a computer simulation, be it a video game or some other form of entertainment. for advanced life forms or possibly some kind of AI-guided simulation of ancient life created by a version of humanity from the far future. It’s a popular proposition that, in recent years, has been publicly entertained by big names in tech, like Elon Musk, and has been more seriously considered and unpacked by prominent philosophers like Nick Bostrom.

It seems like Hotz is one of the believers, or at least that’s what the crowd at SXSW would think. The 29-year-old businessman, who rose to fame as a teenager when he became the first hacker to unlock the first-generation iPhone, has always been an out-of-the-box, out of the ordinary thinker. Above, nondescript world of silicon valley.

It sank into hot water when it released Sony’s PlayStation 3, leading to a contentious lawsuit that was later settled. But the event put Hotz on the trail of an outsider from the tech industry ever since, leading to short stints at Facebook, Google and the San Francisco-based company Vicarious. In 2015, he founded the autonomous startup Comma.ai, which aims to democratize access to self-driving software and is based on Hotz’s belief that the current direction of the autonomous industry is a giant scam.

But at SXSW, it appears that Hotz has vowed to set aside and push the boundaries of the acceptable marketing conference topic. His talks here, including one from three years ago in which he vowed to end capitalism, present a version of himself that seems unhinged, unconcerned and lifts the crowd into a frenzy.

And audiences, seemingly like-minded guys who have followed Hotz’s pinballing trajectory, generally love it. Yesterday, Hotz spoke to a room of about 100 people, while sporting a hoodie, a bushy beard and a scruffy curly-haired mop. Throughout the talk, he compared programming to magic, considered how he would like to die one day, and said that one of the most disturbing aspects of life in the future will be when we all realize that we probably don’t have free will.

At one point, Hotz said he was even entertaining founding a religion dedicated to breaking away from the simulated universe. “I’m thinking of starting a church. There are a lot of structural problems with companies – there is no real way to win,” Hotz said, referring to the end result of any capitalist venture is to maximize profits, sell the business, or burn everything. what Hotz considers flaws. .

Hotz is considering starting a church dedicated to breaking the simulation.

“With companies, you just really lose. I think churches could be much more aligned with these goals, and the church’s goal would be to realign society’s efforts to get out [of the simulation]”Sounds a lot like what Anthony Levandowski, the infamous former Uber and Google engineer who sparked a multi-million dollar lawsuit between the two companies, is doing with Way of the Future, an organization dedicated to” creating a peaceful and respectful environment. ” transition of who is in charge of the planet ”once machines surpass human intelligence.

“I don’t know how close you guys think to the singularity, but I think it’s very close.” Once we reach the singularity, if we have the same motivations as we have now, mainly power over people, things are going to be horrendous. ” Hotz added. “Gather the right people, and start saying, ‘What does it mean to go out?’ There are no charlatans, there is no garbage. Whatever you say, the better it will be rationally justifiable. “

It’s hard knowing how to take Hotz seriously sometimes; It seems to me that he is someone who often says something to get a reaction or to verbalize his internal monologue as a way to make sense of it. And he said it so much on stage. “Do I really believe it? Some days I do,” he said. “Sometimes I don’t know how I feel about something until I say it out loud.”

The crowd was not very concerned in any way. During the question and answer session, a member of the audience asked Hotz if he would consider partnering with transhumanists, people who believe in the eventual evolution of humanity by fusing the body and mind with robotics and artificial intelligence, to found your church. Hotz was quite ambivalent about the idea; maybe he didn’t think people would take him at his word. But if he does start a church, the sermon he gave at SXSW yesterday was delivered to a room of would-be believers.