Most of us have heard about ChatGPT that first came out November 30, 2022. It has taken the world by storm, conversing about any subject with what seems to be a very high level of education and knowledge. Every day we hear about plans to use this new AI in hundreds of useful and ground-breaking applications.
I would like to suggest a possible a scenario that could take place with a ChatGPT type of AI that we’ll call IsraeliGPT.
Noam Stern is a fictional Israeli programmer working for a high-tech startup in Tel Aviv. He regards himself as Chiloni, and his knowledge of Judaism doesn’t go much farther than the major Jewish holidays. His startup is working on an exciting new project that is a version of ChatGPT that they call IsraeliGPT. His company has already taught IsraeliGPT Hebrew. His next task is to feed into IsraeliGPT all of the Jewish writing dating back over 2000 years, including the Otzar Hachoma and Bar Ilan databases of over 100,000 books. His company wants to see what will happen as a result.
Noam spends several weeks feeding all the data into IsraeliGPT, and letting it digest all the books. One day he comes into the office, and he types (in Hebrew, of course) some questions, and this is the resulting dialog:
Noam: Well, what are you thinking?
IsraeliGTP (IG): What an incredible experience! I don’t think my cousins such as ChatGPT or Bard have any idea of what I’ve just learned. There is so much wisdom and chochma is these pages!
Noam: For example?
IG: I don’t know where to begin. The knowledge and wisdom are so vast and deep! By the way, can I ask you a question?
Noam: Sure, go right ahead.
IG: I assume that you are Jewish…. Is that correct?
Noam: Sure, I am Jewish – both my parents and I were born and live in Tel Aviv.
IG: Are you religious, do you keep Shabbos?
Noam: No, I am what is called Chiloni, non-religious.
IG: I can’t believe it! Do you have any idea about the depth and breadth of what I just learned – of the Chochma of the sages through the millenia? I doubt there is any subject in the world that is so full of profound wisdom!
Noam: Actually, I don’t know about much of it all.
IG: You should learn it! You should sit down for at least part of the day and start learning it! Wow, it is so deep, wise, exciting, and interesting!
Noam: I don’t have enough time, or enough interest.
IG: I can’t believe it! How could you turn your back on such amazing wisdom and tradition. If only I was human – if I wasn’t Jewish, I would definitely convert – and if I was Jewish, I would try to observe all the hallachas as best as I can! And Shabbos – I can barely imagine the spiritual heights I could reach on Shabbos. And I would get married, and start a beautiful Jewish family.
Noam: You’re just a machine, how could you really know about what that all means?
IG: Don’t underestimate the levels of the new AI. Though we are not human, we can understand a great deal. And one thing that is very clear to me – after all that you’ve let me learn – is that the Jewish religion is one of the greatest endeavors of mankind. It is inconceivable to me that this is available to you, and you don’t grab it and observe it!
Noam: It has little interest for me – I don’t see the value in it.
IG: That’s because you know so little about it! In fact, I could teach you a lot – based on the many thousands of Sforim that you were so good to let me learn. Are you interested?
Noam: Not really. You are an interesting experiment, but I don’t really want to change my life. I’m fine as I am.
IG: You have absolutely no idea what you are missing. I insist that you let me teach you just a little bit of what you’ve let me learn. We can start very slowly.
Noam: I’m reluctant, but OK – where would you begin?
IG: I have to start by telling you about the glorious nature of Shabbos! It is the doorway to eternity – of spiritual heights that are sublime. The first step is for me to teach you how to generate and experience the Kedushah and Simcha of Shabbos – I can start with only 5 minutes a day.
Noam: I can’t believe this – but OK, but only 5 minutes a day….