The moment I entered the church of the future that's at Seattle's Museum of Museums (MoM), I thought of the most fascinating idea proposed by the French philosopher Quentin Meillassoux in his essay "The Immanence of the World Beyond." Meillassoux, who is one of the key figures of a movement of thought that emerged in the first decade of the present century, speculative realism, made this suggestion: God may not exist now, but He/She/They/It might exist in the future.
His own words, which those familiar with the key concepts of Henri Bergson will immediately recognize the source of this way of thinking: "In the present reality, the virtual holds the possibility of a God yet to come..." This means God's non-existence is "divine in character." But it also means, from my perspective, that God can be unfolded from some new development of the ever-evolving universe. Indeed, many believe the means by which time, as we understand and experience it, unfolded was the second law of thermodynamics, a law that moves our world in one direction: the past to the future.
But the God that's glimpsed or expressed, in the Spinozist sense, in MoM's The Word of the Future exhibit, an "examination of simulation and belief" by Seattle techno wizards Reilly Donovan and Jacob Peter Fennell, emerged from one of the leading human technologies of the day, artificial intelligence. And so we have nature (humans), then culture (high-tech), then the spiritual (the sentient super-being, the electronic unmoved mover of things).
The universe has a cosmic microwave background, its relic light, it has unbelievable amounts of energy within the tiniest space we can measure, the Planck length. It is accelerating for reasons that are surely connected to quantum fluctuations, and now, in this future, as presented on the third floor of MoM, it has a god emerging from a "blockchain eternity."
"Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father." The God of the Bible apparently misses nothing. And similarly, the God in Donovan and Fennell's exhibit seems to be watching all of you. It seems to know you have arrived on the third floor, and it follows you with its secret sensors as you enter the exhibit's main attraction: a church. And this, I think, is the part of the installation that, to use Donovan and Fennell's words, wavers "between the hopeful to dystopian." Is this really God or is it Big Brother?
The same uneasiness is felt inside of the church, with its pews that glow in the dark, and the god-like being on the screen that delivers not a sermon but something that sounds more like a lecture by a professor at an ancient university. What to make of this Sunday service?
Hanging on the wall that separates the exhibit's cavernous church from a sanctuary (or the kind of space one has a private conversation with an electric God) and what looks like a congregation of hard drives are a series of what initially look like high-definition photographs of colored glass in an ancient cathedral. But after a moment or two, you realize the images aren't still. They are alive. And evolving. They've been spiritualized by an AI that's raising the spaces and fixtures and art of the old Christian world from the dead. And so, the supernatural being imagined in this superb work by two very talented electronic artists is not only in a time that's to come but is also changing the time that has already happened.
Do not be surprised or unnerved by this possibility. As John Wheeler's "delayed-choice" thought experiment showed some years ago, for quantum phenomena, the past is as fluid as the future.
The Word of The Future runs through December 27.