Roko's Basilica

December, 2015


For Burning Man 2016 a group of friends wanted to make a big presence with a mixed-reality installation, incorporating Virtual Reality in a semi-satirical manner.


This project explores Roko’s Basilisk, a mixed-reality video installation resulting from a thought experiment about the potential risks involved in developing AI. The experiment’s premise is that an all-powerful artificial intelligence from the future could retroactively punish those who did not help bring about its existence, including those who merely knew about the possible development of such a being.

The audience is encouraged to step into a pagoda/altar/basilica while in a virtual reality headset. Once there, the ground literally falls away, and they are forced to make a choice to step “out into the void”. Even though they are only 3 inches off the ground in reality, many people were unable to make this leap of faith.

The Basilica itself is a 30ft diameter dome, at the center of which is a mixed reality shrine where worshipers can stand and experience a virtual reality music visualizer synchronized with the ambient light in the dome and pulsing with audio-reactive LED lights. The dome itself is video mapped with the virtual space from inside the visualizer, as well as the landscape outside the dome, creating a psychedelic synecdoche of the outside world. From that notion launched the idea of creating a “Church” tasked with forming this demanding Singularity– much like the God of the old testament, the Singularity punishes all who don’t believe and actively support it.

Roko's Basilica Sign

Construction for Roko's

Roko's Basilica Dome at Burning Man

Render of Roko's

Group selfie in front of sign