And He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of Hashem!” Ezekiel 37:4 (The Israel Bible™)
Artificial intelligence is advancing at a lightning pace and is already being adopted for military use, raising questions as to what role this powerful new technology will play in the end-of-days. Will it be a terrifying rogue combatant in the final Biblical War of Gog and Magog, or will it be an unforeseen savior of mankind and even have a possible role in the resurrection of the dead?
In one potential end-of-days scenario, technology plays a destructive role for humanity. A video, titled “Slaughterbots” and produced by the notorious Campaign to Stop Killer Robots illustrates this outcome in which autonomous drones armed with explosive charges wreak havoc on society. The video is part of a campaign intended to ban lethal autonomous weapons, a concern which clearly resonates with many as the petition has already garnered over 20,000 signatures.
Aspects of the fictitious future depicted in the video are appearing to become reality. Both India and Japan announced this week that they are beginning to introduce autonomous artificial intelligence (AI) into their defense sectors.
At the same time, governments also recognize that the destructive potential of AI raises moral difficulties. British Prime Minister Theresa May announced this week that her government is establishing an advisory body to coordinate with other countries in discussing how artificial intelligence can be used ethically for military purposes.
It seems that any future war, including the pre-Messianic War of Gog and Magog, will include killer robots, and many spiritual leaders are already considering how AI figures into a religious vision of the end-of-days. Rabbi Michael Laitman, a leading expert in Kabbalah and the founder of Bnei Baruch Kabbalah association, believes that technology and more specifically artificial intelligence, will play a major role in the end-of-days but not necessarily a positive one.
“It is clear in Kabbalah that in the times preceding geula (redemption), Man is going to utilize the entire potential of technology,” Rabbi Laitman told Breaking Israel News. “Men will begin to create artificial intelligence. People will want to achieve something similar to the creation of Man.”
“In the time of the geula, people will understand that all of this development, all throughout history, is what brought us to an even greater collapse,” he stressed. “This will become very clear in war when we see that all of the technology we developed for man’s good can immediately turn around and be used against man.”
Rabbi Laitman believes that the same motives of Man which led to the construction of the Tower of Babel are also in play with the development of artificial intelligence.
“Men wanted to ascend to the heavens and become like God,” the rabbi explained. “To do this, they were dealing with the basic foundations of creation. They wanted to fix something inside man they believed was a blemish.”
Though this motive sounds noble, Rabbi Laitman pointed out a flaw that turned their good intentions into evil.
“This came from a place of ego, in which they wanted to take the place of God,” Rabbi Laitman said.
In an article that Rabbi Laitman published last Friday in Breaking Israel News, he outlined the dangers of artificial intelligence but also described a solution in containing potential problems.
“Unfortunately, I do believe that AI-powered weapons will be developed,” the rabbi wrote. “If we upgraded our human consciousness at least as much as we upgraded our technologies, then we would have no fear of creating AI terminators that would be capable of eliminating us. Instead, we would further our research to discover a technology more sophisticated than AI, and energy more powerful than nuclear energy.”
Rabbi Mark Goldfeder, a senior lecturer at Emory University School of Law, speculated that AI would, in fact, play a more positive role in the Messiah.
“Some people have proposed an apocalyptic vision of AI in which Man and machine merge in the End of Days, suggesting that this would be tchiyat hametim (resurrection of the dead),” he told Breaking Israel News.
He also described efforts to upload the entirety of an individual’s knowledge to a computer.
“Some scientists think they are on the path to achieving this and in some form replicating or even recreating the consciousness of individuals,” Rabbi Goldfeder said. “This is not the traditional understanding of tchiyat hametim and not one that I ascribe to, but that being the case, I can’t imagine why it would be problematic as something else entirely if it is done with proper consent.”
The rabbi suggested that at some point in the future theologians will have to determine whether AI should be considered sentient and human.
“The line between Man and machine in the Torah is not as clear as what we would like to think it is,” the rabbi said.
Although AI poses many ethical and theological questions, Rabbi Goldfeder thinks that not only is this a good thing but that the development of technology was in fact intended by God to be part of Man’s role in being a partner with God in Creation.
“One of the first commandments we received was to conquer the world, which we understand as that doing your best to participate with God in creation,” Rabbi Goldfeder said, citing Genesis.
Hashem blessed them and Hashem said to them, “Be fertile and increase, fill the earth and master it; Genesis 1:28
“All these forces were put in nature and they are amoral, not immoral; what we do with them establishes good or evil,” explained Rabbi Goldfeder. “Artificial intelligence has the ability to help us do incredible good.”
Rabbi Goldfeder believes AI will continue to be important even after the arrival of the Messiah.
“People tend to think of y’mot ha’moshiach (Messianic era) as going back to Biblical times,” Rabbi Goldfeder told Breaking Israel News. “I assume the Third Temple will make absolute use of every technology we have available.”