Just imagine, in the near future, a robot walking up to you and saying, “Hi, I’m Jon.”  So you say, “You’re just a robot.”  To which the robot responds, “How can you say that?  You’re hurting my feelings!”  So you reply, “You don’t have feelings.  You’re just a robot.”

Then, someone else who overhears the conversation says to you, “How dare you!  You treat ‘Jon’ with the respect that he deserves!  He is a person, no different from you or me!”

The blessing of technological progress tends to bring with it new moral challenges.  Can a robot have a soul?  Is it a person?

The moral dilemmas are not hard to see.  An intelligent robot and a person are in danger and you can only save one – which do you save?  Seems obvious, right?

We take for granted that a human has a soul that is unique and cannot be replicated.  But is it hard to imagine a time in the not-so-distant future when that time honored belief becomes a controversial belief?  Can you imagine a time when people espouse human supremacy will be considered by some to be bigots, racists, or – to coin a term – ROBOPHOBIC!

Judaism, surprisingly, has a great deal to say on this topic.  The ancients were very concerned with the question as to what exactly is unique human intelligence.  Jewish mysticism has mountains of literature parsing the nature of intelligence.  The acronym “Chabad” stands for Chokhmah, Binah, and Daat, three types of intelligence.  Even though they lacked the technological means, the ancients were interested in understanding which types of intelligence can be replicated in a machine, and which, if any, are uniquely human.

Ai Vey introduces ancient Jewish wisdom to the very practical challenges presented by the rapid progress of modern technology.