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Thinking about AI


Rabbi Daniel Nevins
Jewish Standard, June 22, 2023

“… If machines can generate reasonable speech, can they also make claims to personhood?”

Given rapid developments in artificial intelligence, questions about the implications of manufactured minds for Jewish life have grown urgent. Back in 2019 I authored a responsum (rabbinic legal opinion) on this subject for the Rabbinical Assembly’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, and I have spoken at several academic conferences examining the implications of AI for Jewish law.

Yet even those of us who have been considering the subject for years have been surprised by powerful new large language models that are capable of generating coherent original texts on nearly any subject and in any style.

In my 2019 responsum, I focused first on topics related to AI-governed autonomous machines. Who is responsible for damage caused by a self-driving vehicle? How might we integrate Jewish ethical and legal norms into the operating systems of these machines? What moral rules should govern autonomous weapons systems?

Such questions would be complicated enough if these machines simply applied algorithms created by people. But machine learning has shifted into an observational paradigm, where the AI starts from scratch — studying texts, images, sounds, and other data found in the world — and draws its own conclusions.
… [To read the full article, click here]

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