Terumah (Exodus 25:1-27:19) Technology, Robotics and the “Gift” of Presence

tiny pieces of broken glass in grayscale photography
Photo by Lehel Mozgai on Pexels.com

            V’asitah is a word that appears frequently in this week’s portion. “And you shall make” is the way this word is often translated. The portion revolves around the construction of the Tabernacle/Temple (see the companion Haftorah from I Kings). We are told to bring gifts as our heart so moves us to this project. No doubt your discussion at Torah study will look at the type of gifts that our hearts speak.

            But this week I want to remind us of a gift is emerging as we speak, a gift that is being designed to assist the growing number of caregivers and people needing care. It is a glimpse into our future and a window into what may be possible for us as we continue to age. This is the gift of technology, and it is changing the landscape of caregiving as we speak.

            This is beyond the smart phones or Alexa devices that many of us have. We are now entering the world of Artificial Intelligence and robotics. This is not fiction. This is all happening now. This Sunday, February 27, the Jewish Studies Department of Arizona State University will host an on-line conference entitled “Judaism, Jews and Artificial Intelligence: Machine Learning vs Enduring Wisdom” (https://asuevents.asu.edu/JSMG) The faculty will examine some of the technological, theological, ethical and practical implications of this new technology. Can it assist us in caregiving? Can robots help solve the issue of loneliness and isolation? Research has already shown that this may be true and growing number of facilities have begun to place robots in rooms or hallways. As Keren Etkin, a leader in this technology notes in her groundbreaking book “The AgeTech Revolution”: “developing technology to tackle the challenges of aging is the single most important opportunity of the next decade”.

            This gift is being brought to us by a variety of companies. AI and robotics offer opportunities as well as challenges. Is this a gift that is for a select few? What about people who cannot afford these devices? What about the millions of people who could benefit but cannot access the technology because they lack access to internet? Will or can these devices supplant human connection or be a needed addition? There are a host of these concerns that are now emerging.

            But this is true: this gift of technology is being and will continue to be brought to our tabernacles. How we seek to respond to this emerging “gift” will be fascinating to see.  

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Richard F Address

Be the first to comment

What are your thoughts?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.