Anthony Levandowski, the former Uber engineer at the heart of the high-stakes legal battle between Waymo and Uber over self-driving technology, has reportedly filed paperwork to create a religious organisation based on artificial intelligence.
According to Wired, the multi-millionaire engineer filed previously unreported paperwork in September 2015 to create the "Way of the Future", a religious organisation that seeks to "develop and promote the realisation of a Godhead based on artificial intelligence".
Way of the Future has not filed any forms annually with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to qualify as a tax-exempt religious organisation, Wired reports. However, documents submitted with the state of California reveal that Levandowski is Way of the Future's CEO and President.
According to the filings, the organisation aims to "contribute to the betterment of society" through the "understanding and worship of the Godhead".
Levandowski was the star engineer and head of Uber's self-driving division before he was fired in May for violating the terms of his employment and "impeding Uber's internal investigation and defence of the lawsuit".
Waymo had accused Levandowski of stealing 14,000 internal documents related to autonomous car technology before he left the company in 2016 and took them to Uber. Among the documents were trade secrets, patents and its proprietary LiDAR system, Waymo claimed.
However, he failed to comply with a court order demanding he hand over the documents, pleading the Fifth Amendment.
Levandowski had started an independent self-driving truck company Otto before it was acquired by Uber for $680m (£508m) in August 2016. Waymo alleged that the engineer launched the company as part of a "cover-up scheme" so that Uber could eventually acquire it and use its self-driving secrets. Uber's legal team has dismissed the allegations as "baseless".
As for AI and its impact, many tech executives and experts have voiced their concerns about Singularity, the moment when machine intelligence surpasses human intelligence, and the rise of AI as a potential threat to humanity.
Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has long been vocal about the risks and dangers that come with AI and recently said AI is a "fundamental, existential risk to human civilisation" and called on governments to proactively address and regulate AI development. He once famously compared developing artificial intelligence to "summoning the demon".
Last year, renowned physicist Stephen Hawking said success in the development of AI could be the "biggest event in the history of our civilisation" but warned that it "could also be the last unless we learn how to avoid the risks".
"Alongside the benefits, AI will also bring dangers, like powerful autonomous weapons, or new ways for the few to oppress the many," Hawking said. "It will bring great disruption to our economy. And in the future, AI could develop a will of its own – a will that is in conflict with ours.
"In short, the rise of powerful AI will be either the best, or the worst thing, ever to happen to humanity. We do not know which."