Can Artificial Intelligence Render Decisions of Jewish Law?

Such programs as ChatGPT have the ability to draw on the knowledge of the entire Internet to answer factual questions, and can sometimes (but far from always) do so with impressive accuracy. As the technology improves, it’s feasible that Jews might turn to machine-learning software to answer difficult questions of Jewish law, usurping the primary traditional role of the rabbi or halakhic authority. Gil Student takes up the question:

The Torah says regarding the priests: “you are to teach the Children of Israel all the statutes” (Leviticus 10:11). Rabbi Isaac of Corbeil (13th-century France) counts this as a mitzvah [incumbent] on anyone capable of issuing a halakhic ruling, if no one else more capable is available. . . . While others include this [obligation] as part of the commandment to study and teach Torah, Rabbi Isaac sees it as an independent mitzvah. Either way, issuing a halakhic ruling is an act of religious devotion. It is a fulfillment of a divine command that allows the respondent to enter the religious life of the questioner and create for him a new halakhic reality.

Anyone who has studied halakhah can tell people what [a particular halakhic code] says about a specific case. A computer can do this, as well. A person is better than a regular computer at understanding the nuances of a question and offering the appropriate reference source. An AI might be even better at this than a person, with perfect recall of a massive library. However, this is just a matter referencing past rulings.

Issuing a new halakhic ruling is not just about providing a reference—it is a religious activity. I suggest that only those within the religious community, only those who are part of the covenant and fulfill commandments, can create a halakhic reality by issuing a ruling. . . . Someone outside the halakhic covenant cannot create a halakhic reality.

Read more at Torah Musings

More about: Artifical Intelligence, Halakhah, Technology

An American Withdrawal from Iraq Would Hand Another Victory to Iran

Since October 7, the powerful network of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have carried out 120 attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. In the previous year, there were dozens of such attacks. The recent escalation has led some in the U.S. to press for the withdrawal of these forces, whose stated purpose in the country is to stamp out the remnants of Islamic State and to prevent the group’s resurgence. William Roberts explains why doing so would be a mistake:

American withdrawal from Iraq would cement Iran’s influence and jeopardize our substantial investment into the stabilization of Iraq and the wider region, threatening U.S. national security. Critics of the U.S. military presence argue that [it] risks a regional escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran. However, in the long term, the U.S. military has provided critical assistance to Iraq’s security forces while preventing the escalation of other regional conflicts, such as clashes between Turkey and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, the only path forward to preserve a democratic, pluralistic, and sovereign Iraq is through engagement with the international community, especially the United States. Resisting Iran’s takeover will require the U.S. to draw international attention to the democratic backsliding in the country and to be present and engage continuously with Iraqi civil society in military and non-military matters. Surrendering Iraq to Iran’s agents would not only squander our substantial investment in Iraq’s stability; it would greatly increase Iran’s capability to threaten American interests in the Levant through its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Read more at Providence

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy