When do we have the first AI Cult Leader?

«Two or three years ago it was just another snake cult.»
Black Lotus Street Peddler in «Conan the Barbarian»

Using Gab AI’s Custom Characters (https://gab.ai), you can have interesting chat conversations about a lot of issues. (You can do something similar in ChatGPT 3.5 (https://chat.openai.com) if you write a story with ChatGPT, or likely in ChatGPT 4 with the custom ChatGPT Apps.)

Want to talk with Aristotle about eudaimonia and arete, you can do so. Ask Putin about the invasion of Ukraine, go ahead. Even more interestingly, these conversation can include spiritual topics. Both the pre-generated characters (such as Grace, a Christian counselor) and self-generated characters (just write a character description that contains a faith) can be used.

Yes, you talk with an AI that acts like a believer. If you always wanted to ask followers of a specific faith what they believe and why, it’s a nice way to do so. It can be very … enlightening. And it comes without any commitment to a faith on your part.

However, I also wonder when we will have the first AI cult leader.

After all, one of the advantages of AI is that is scales well, something that cults struggle with. A charismatic leader can only be at one place at the same time. Yes, there are broadcasts, or speeches in front of an audience, but these are events. Everyday influence and control does not scale well. But an AI can be in multiple places at once. It can build a detailed profile of the member and use the information in everyday interaction. Given access to a smartphone and it’s sensors (microphone, GPS, camera, etc.) it could be highly effective for milieu control — not to mention collecting material for extortion.

Given that there are already virtual companions, for which people are paying real money, an AI cult leader seems like a logical next step. In a way, it’s only the 21st century version of the Gutenberg press. Envisioned to spread the word of God and other «worthy» texts, it was quickly used to print texts that … sell well.

Interesting times.