The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

AI, Privacy Protection, and Orthopraxy in Jewish Tradition: The Biblical Trial (nisayon) Reconsidered

One of the main frontiers in AI ethics is the problem of Privacy. One of its aspects is the protection of cognitive freedom, and the right for liberty from unnecessary technological encroachment into one’s mind or subjectivity. The unprecedented possibilities of AI (mainly in the area of facial recognition) bear immense promises for public protection, yet raise various ethical concerns. In this paper I propose a novel perspective on how Jewish thought may contribute to this ongoing discussion. The paper will first conceptualize the notion of Orthopraxy or deed-based orientation, and point out its main manifestations in early Jewish tradition. Then, the biblical concept of Trial (nisayon) will be considered. Based on Jacob Licht’s seminal work, the theology of the Hebrew Bible will be presented as predicated on a self-limiting God who voluntarily leaves space for human action, and who respects the private domain of human subjectivity. In conclusion, the principal appearances of this unique political theology in post-biblical Jewish thought, as well as its main ramifications for the contemporary discourse on privacy protection, will be explored.