Somebody call Elon Musk, worrier-in-chief about AI: Anthony Levandowski, the former Google engineer at the heart of the legal battle between Waymo and Uber over self-driving vehicles, is also the head of a religious organization that aims to create an artificial intelligence deity.
That’s according to Wired, whose profile of Levandowski paints him as a brash and brilliant mind who, in Silicon Valley parlance, likes to move fast and break things.
As Sebastian Thrun’s sidekick at Google, the Belgian-born Levandowski had a role in Google’s Street View, then in Google’s nascent self-driving effort — including, according to the Wired piece, basically tricking Google into buying a couple of companies he started because their products became indispensable to what was then called Project Chauffeur.
Now, ahead of a court trial in the Waymo vs. Uber case — Levandowski left Google on bad terms, headed to Uber and is accused of taking Google secrets with him — comes word that not only does he want self-driving cars, he wants to “develop and promote the realization of a Godhead based on Artificial Intelligence.”
That makes perfect sense to a former engineer at 510 Systems, one of the companies Levandowski co-founded and sold to Google.
“He had this very weird motivation about robots taking over the world—like actually taking over, in a military sense,” the unnamed engineer told Wired. “It was like [he wanted] to be able to control the world, and robots were the way to do that. He talked about starting a new country on an island. Pretty wild and creepy stuff.”
The magazine reports that according to paperwork filed with the state of California, Levandowski is president and CEO of Way of the Future, a nonprofit religious organization that was founded in 2015.
The Wired profile includes lots of details about how Levandowski operates. It’s a fascinating read ahead of the trial in the fight between Alphabet’s Waymo and Uber.
“I think Anthony will rise from the ashes,” another former 510 Systems engineer told Wired. That engineer added, “if he could just play it straight, he could be the next Steve Jobs or Elon Musk. But he just doesn’t know when to stop cutting corners.”
The difference? Musk has been sounding the alarm about the dangers of AI. Levandowski apparently wants to create an AI god.
Photo: Anthony Levandowski, former head of Uber’s self-driving program, speaks about the company’s driverless car in San Francisco on Dec. 13, 2016. Uber later fired Levandowski after the star autonomous car researcher touched off a bitter legal fight with Waymo, the former self-driving car arm of Google. (Eric Risberg/AP)
Tags: AI, Alphabet, Anthony Levandowski, artificial intelligence, Google, Uber, Waymo