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Will Chat GPT rot our brains?

Full disclosure: I wrote this weblog. Me. Jeff Salkin. Not a bot. Not an app.

Me. An actual, stay human being who possesses each a thoughts and, presumably, a soul.

I’m glad that I received that out of the way in which.

As a result of it is a actual, stay subject — the debut of Chat GPT, Elon Musk’s new chatbot by Open AI. This know-how will do many issues, however most vital for our functions, it is going to write a full-fledged essay for you — on any subject of your selecting. In a nano-second, Open AI takes your query, scans the web for solutions, and compiles a coherent assertion out of fragments of knowledge.

Cool, huh?

Let’s see how cool it’s, truly.

Let’s take this child out for a take a look at spin. I registered for this system, after which typed in a sequence of questions.

I requested: “What’s going to the way forward for Reform Judaism seem like?”

It answered: “It’s troublesome to say precisely what the way forward for Reform Judaism will seem like, as it is going to rely on quite a lot of components, together with adjustments inside the Jewish neighborhood, world political and social developments, and the actions and choices of Reform Jewish leaders and people. Nonetheless, it’s doubtless that Reform Judaism will proceed to evolve and adapt to the altering wants and needs of its members, whereas staying true to its core values of inclusion, equality, and social justice. As Reform Judaism is without doubt one of the largest and most progressive branches of Judaism, it is going to doubtless proceed to play a serious position in shaping the way forward for the Jewish religion.”

My analysis: I might have gotten that response at a motion conference, besides it will have been within the presence of some 4000 individuals.

I don’t quibble at its brief listing of core values — inclusion, equality, and social justice — however I’d have most well-liked to know one thing about my motion’s mission as a non secular motion — God, Torah, theology, ritual, and so on.

I requested: “Will antisemitism proceed to be an issue in America?”

It answered: “It’s troublesome to foretell the long run, nevertheless it’s potential that antisemitism will proceed to be an issue in America. Antisemitism, like all types of bigotry and hatred, stems from ignorance and worry, and might be fueled by political, social, and financial components. Whereas there have been efforts to fight antisemitism and different types of discrimination, it’s vital for people and communities to proceed to talk out in opposition to hatred and prejudice in all its varieties. By working collectively and standing up for one another, we will create a extra inclusive and compassionate society.”

My analysis: After all, it’s troublesome to foretell the long run, however that is what your “job” is, you little bot. Predict the long run. Or is that within the subsequent model? “It’s potential that antisemitism will proceed to be an issue in America.” Gee, thanks. I suppose that signifies that it’s potential that it gained’t be. Sheesh.

Subsequent time I ask this query, remind me to ask Jonathan Greenblatt of the ADL or Deborah Lipstadt. I like the decision for vigilance and activism, though you’ll have figured that out by yourself. “Actually? We must be vigilant? As a Jewish chief, let me thanks, Chat GPT, for having our backs.”

I requested: “How can Jews and Muslims create an environment of mutual respect?”

It answered: “One of many key ways in which Jews and Muslims can create an environment of mutual respect is by attending to know each other and studying about one another’s beliefs, practices, and cultures. This may be performed by interfaith dialogue and engagement, the place people from completely different religion backgrounds come collectively to be taught from and about each other in a respectful and open-minded manner. By partaking in these sorts of conversations and actions, Jews and Muslims can construct bridges of understanding and appreciation, and work collectively to advertise peace and concord of their communities and past. Moreover, it’s vital for people from each religion traditions to talk out in opposition to bigotry and hatred, and to help each other within the face of discrimination or persecution.”

My analysis: This was a reasonably apparent reply — type of like the reply to the antisemitism query. For those who pay attention fastidiously, you may hear “Kumbaya” within the background. There would possibly even be a brand new app for that.

These had been all mental questions.

Now, let’s take this sucker out for a extra rigorous exercise.

Let’s ask it a “religious” query — the form of pastoral query that I’d get from a affected person in hospice. Like…

I requested: “Rabbi, what occurs to me after I die?

It answered: “Totally different spiritual and philosophical traditions have completely different beliefs about what occurs to a person after they die. Some consider in an afterlife, the place the soul is both rewarded or punished for his or her actions in life. Others consider in reincarnation, the place the soul is reborn into a brand new physique. Nonetheless others consider that demise is the tip of a person’s consciousness, and that there isn’t any afterlife. As a big language mannequin skilled by OpenAI, I don’t have private beliefs or experiences, so I can’t present a definitive reply to this query. It’s as much as every particular person to resolve what they consider occurs after demise based mostly on their very own private beliefs and experiences.”

My analysis: My clergy colleagues can all breathe extra simply — your jobs are secure. This reply simply demonstrated why Chat GPT is likely to be a great way to get an mental reply to an mental query, however for these deeper, “preserve you up in the midst of the evening” questions — not a lot. 

Initially, “Rabbi” ought to have been an apparent give away. It ought to have been a clue to formulating a response. The questioner already is aware of that “completely different spiritual and philosophical traditions have completely different beliefs.” After all, each particular person can resolve what they consider. Isn’t that a part of the issue — that folks don’t need to determine or identify their beliefs on one thing as fragile and existential as this weighty query?

However, here’s what this system received proper. “As a big language mannequin skilled by OpenAI, I don’t have private beliefs or experiences” The bot is a cipher.

Bots have all the web at their fingertips, however they don’t have lives, tales, or, in fact, souls. Chat GPT is just like the golem of Jewish mystical lore, the soulless creature that Rabbi Judah Loew of Prague created within the 1500s.

“Write me a brief story a few man who falls in love, and loses his love, after which finds his love once more.” In a nano-second, some hidden Hemingway produces it for you.

However, it gained’t be Hemingway, as a result of it won’t have handed by the center of Hemingway.

As a substitute, what’s going to we get?  A tradition of plagiarism, much more successfully than the reduce and paste web analysis tradition that we have already got. Who wrote that school admissions essay? (Coming quickly, I’m certain: Inform the bot your work historical past, and let it write your resume for you.)

In contrast, Judaism is a footnote tradition. (That additionally occurs to be top-of-the-line films about Jewish mental life — “Footnote” by Joseph Cedar). The traditional sages train: “Whoever quotes one thing within the identify of the one who mentioned it – b’shem omro — brings redemption to the world.” It’s a mitzvah to quote your sources.

What occurs when that’s not potential, and/or passe?

Lastly, what has been lacking from know-how, all alongside, is an interior critique of know-how.

Treasured few Jews have written about it. The foremost exception is Micah Goodman, within the pages of Sources Journal, printed by the Shalom Hartman Institute:

…I turned to the concepts of Marshall McLuhan, the Canadian communications theorist who famously taught that “the medium is the message.” Expertise can enrich our lives and fill it with issues that weren’t there earlier than. However it may well additionally impoverish us and take issues away from us. In his e-book Understanding Media, McLuhan defined the distinction between what know-how offers and what it takes away. What it offers us is brilliant and glossy, however what it takes away is obscure and virtually invisible. It offers shortly however takes slowly. Its benefits are subsequently seen and spoken about, whereas its disadvantages are largely unseen and far much less spoken about. This asymmetry creates the phantasm that know-how is an unmitigated bonus for humanity. However in observe, it at all times comes at a value.

“It at all times comes at a value.”

That is what it is going to value us: our pondering; our important colleges; our mental curiosity; our potential to analysis, our potential to learn; our want to create nice literature.

The Jews hint their story again to Abraham, who shattered his father’s idols. We are able to do extra, and we will do higher.

I invite all spiritual thinkers to dig down, and lean in — and ask themselves the query: Is that this what God desires of us? Is that this what it means to be made within the divine picture?

Now, if I requested that query of Chat GPT…..?

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