Now that a computer has passed the Turing test (kind of), it’s time to start asking the really tough questions, like “Can a robot convert to Judaism?”, “Can a robot count in a minyan?” and “I’m a friend of Sarah Connor. Could I see her please?” Over at JTA, Adam Soclof and Rabbi Mark Goldfeder have your answers.
For the purposes of this discussion, I would accept the position of the Jerusalem Talmud in the third chapter of Tractate Niddah that when you are dealing with a creature that does not conform to the simple definition of “humanness” — i.e. born from a human mother or at least possessing human DNA, but it appears to have human characteristics and is doing human things — one examines the context to determine if it is human. When something looks human and acts human, to the point that I think it might be human, then halachah might consider the threshold to have been crossed.
This makes sense from a Jewish ethical perspective as well. Oftentimes Jewish ethics are about the actor, not the one being acted upon. If I see something that for all intents and purposes looks human, I cannot start poking it to see if it bleeds. I have a responsibility to treat all that seem human as humans, and it is better to err on the side of caution from an ethical perspective.
It…kind of sounds like robots can be Jewish. If that’s the case, I can’t wait to attend my first Bot Mitzvah.