Many of the early biblical commentators say that what separates man from animals is the ability to speak – not only to communicate but also to express some level of moral intelligence.
While the early rabbis obviously didn’t have bots or computer programs, they did deal with creatures that were human-ish, if not human.
Famously, the rabbis give partial human status to something called a yadua. While the rabbinic descriptions are terse, the creature seems something like Bigfoot; a giant man-like animal usually spotted in the field.
Maimonides, in describing these creatures, notes that their speech is similar to humans, but is unintelligible.
The famous Jewish scholar refers to the creatures in his commentary as monkeys. But he doesn’t dispute the Talmudic teaching that in some cases yadua can be considered persons.
After all, so the argument goes, the yadua looks (somewhat) like a human, and exhibits a level of intelligence that makes it seem, in some ways human.
Therefore it deserves to be treated like a human for some things, even though it fails the biological test of being born of a woman.
Opinion by Mark Goldfeder, special to CNN
(CNN) — To the team of researchers, Eugene Goostman seemed like a nice Jewish boy from Odessa, Ukraine.
In fact, he was a computer.
In convincing some of the researchers that Goostman was real, the computer program became the first to pass the Turing Test for artificial intelligence.
The Turing Test, named for British mathematician Alan Turing, is often thought of as the benchmark test for true machine intelligence. Since 1950, thousands of scientific teams have tried to create something capable of passing, but none has succeeded.
That is, until Saturday – and, appropriately for the Goostman advance, our brave new world can learn a bit from Jewish history.
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