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Judaism, Science, and Technology

Can an artificially intelligent robot become Jewish? On what basis should we decide when life begins and ends—science, philosophy, or religion? In this course, we will explore some of the challenges, opportunities, and mysteries of modern science and technology from three distinct perspectives: Jewish philosophy (how we think about things), Jewish law (the rules that govern our behavior), and Jewish ethics (the rightness and wrongness of our choices and actions). We will study two cutting-edge test cases—the changing definition of death and artificial intelligence. Both these cases demonstrate human mastery over nature (and its limits), raise questions about what life is and when it begins and ends, and open a wellspring of ethical challenges. As we study these cases, we will consider our moral agency in technological advancement: how do we make moral, Jewishly informed choices about what we should do, given that advances in scientific understanding and technological capability make it increasingly possible for us to do–even be–whatever we want?