From the Newsletter | Is AI Good for Humanity?

By | Aug 10, 2023
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It’s the question of the moment.
The launch of the first really convincing artificial intelligence chatbot last November sparked widespread excitement and fear. Suddenly, people were demanding that their computers produce improbable verbal artifacts—a sonnet about Mars exploration in the style of Milton, a bio of themselves with an annotated bibliography, an essay on happiness among penguins, a Talmudic exegesis on climate change—and then brandishing the sometimes uncanny results. In fact, more than 100 million people have already experimented with ChatGPT (short for Chat Generative Pre-Trained Transformer) and similar “large language model” bots to see what the technology can do for them.

Chatbots are just one of many AI applications up and running, and new ones are coming, and coming fast. These new advances are layered upon previous ones: Aspects of artificial intelligence have been around for decades in the form of search engines, social media algorithms, facial recognition, voice processors and bots of all kinds, all made possible by great leaps in computer programming and processing. These technologies have become an invisible part of our daily lives.

What does it all mean? Where will it take us? Is AI good for humanity? We believe it is essential to wrestle with this biggest of “Big Questions.” AI is the brainchild of cognitive scientists, computer programmers, physicists, futurists and robotics engineers; it raises problems that concern politicians, journalists, psychologists, philanthropists, linguists and philosophers; and it’s alive in the imaginations of artists, cartoonists, novelists and, of course, science fiction writers. So, we’ve asked people from all these fields to tell us what excites them, what terrifies them and how best to approach this astounding moment in human history. Beyond the dangers and the possibilities they describe lurks the biggest question of all: In an era of thinking machines, what does it mean to be human? Though not everyone approaches this question using a Jewish framework, its essence is about as “Jewish” as it gets.

Before you dive into the 29 fascinating responses to our “Big Question” on AI here, please take a moment to consider this: Moment succeeds with the support of readers like you. Consider making a gift to independent Jewish journalism today

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