May 24, 2019

The Evolution of Shabbat Technology

““Alexa, can I use you on Shabbat?” The journalist spoke into a small glass-and-metal device he held in his hand, which connected him to a distant supercomputer in a place known only as “the Cloud.”

It was not an unreasonable question to ask in the 21st century. Science and technology march on, and halacha — Jewish law — has to keep up. Talking into an invisible microphone wasn’t really the same thing as dialing a telephone dial and connecting a circuit across town — or was it?

It was, however, unreasonable to ask it of Alexa. In the year 2019, Alexa couldn’t provide a sensible answer to the question. For all that the previous paragraphs read like a short story by Isaac Asimov, or some other 20th-century science fiction writer, Amazon’s voice-controlled computer program hasn’t reached Star Trek levels of intelligence yet.

“Hmmm. I don’t know that one,” was all Alexa was able to offer.”

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