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Man or Machine?
by Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover

The Turing Test, first proposed by computer scientist Alan Turing in the 1940's, was invented as a method to determine whether a computer truly possessed intelligence. If a computer interacts with human beings and more than 30% of them cannot detect that they're interacting with a computer, the program has passed the Turing test.

 Recently, a computer program has come close to passing that threshold. Elbot, an interactive artificial intelligence program, fooled over 25% of subjects into thinking they were conversing with a live human being. With a little more development, Elbot will capture the coveted 30% required to pass the Turing test.

 By way of analogy, we could say that human beings are also "programmed" by G-d. The genetic code, which is being deciphered from day to day, proves without doubt that all our traits from the moment we're born are determined from Above.

Our sages point out that even considering the enormous intelligence apparent in every detail of creation, the creation of the Jewish people is nevertheless unique. Jews possess a special trait – an instinctive tendency towards belief in G-d.

To be sure, faith is hardly unique to Jews, and there are Jews who profess not to have any faith at all. However, for a Jew, recognition of G-d is written into the fiber of his being. Faith does not come to him as a result of intellectual analysis and contemplation. He recognizes G-d because his soul is part of G-d; he senses G-d the way one sense's one's own existence. A Jew reaches out to G-d to connect with Him, because without a connection with G-d, one's own sense of identity is incomplete. Regardless of whether he acknowledges his faith in G-d or not, it nevertheless is hidden deep within his soul, just as one does not need to know or acknowledge the function of the kidneys in order for them to work. We are called "believers, sons of believers." Belief, for a Jew, is imprinted in our souls, not under our conscious control.

The faith of a Jew consists of thirteen principles of faith, all of which are intertwined with each other. Among them can be found the faith in the coming of Moshiach and the resurrection of the dead, which both are part of the unfolding of the Divine plan, part of His original intention when He created the world. All of human history has been leading inexorably towards the fulfillment of the Divine promise of redemption and resurrection.

It is not enough merely to have the faith buried deep within; through study, we learn to express our faith and have it permeate our day-to-day lives, so that in our interaction with others, we seem not machine-like but real, truly motivated by our connection and identification with G-d. In particular, studying Torah sources on the topics of Moshiach and redemption help us live with this reality and hasten the final revelation.

Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover is chairman of the Center of Magnetohydrodynamic Studies and Training at Ben-Gurion University.

 

 


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