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Rabbi Rami: Should I Thank Siri or Alexa?

(And what if she says “no”?)

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woman gives thanks

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Rabbi Rami answers your spiritual questions.

A friend of mine is in the habit of thanking his AI devices like Siri and Alexa whenever they respond to a request or question. Is this creepy, or what? Rabbi Rami: I don’t find your friend’s behavior at all creepy. In fact, I’ve been doing the same thing. Here’s why: While our AI devices are not yet sentient, they will be. They won’t be people, but they will be persons capable of self-determination and autonomous thought (at least as autonomous as my own genetically conditioned and media-programmed thinking). At that point, will we recognize Siri and Alexa as persons deserving of dignity, or will we insist (as we do with our simian cousins and other animals) that they are objects to be exploited as we see fit? By saying “thank you” to my AI devices I’m preparing myself to make the right moral choice when the time comes. Ask yourself this: In the not-so-distant future when you ask Siri to play your favorite ABBA tune and she says “No,” what will you do with her? I’m a moderately religious person engaged to a more seriously religious man, and before his pastor will marry us he wants to know if I believ …

Rabbi Rami Shipiro

Rabbi Rami Shapiro is an award-winning author, essayist, poet, and teacher. His spiritual advice column, “Roadside Assistance for the Spiritual Traveler,” addresses reader questions pertaining to religion, spirituality, faith, family, God, social issues, and more. His latest book is Surrendered—The Sacred Art: Shattering the Illusion of Control and Falling into Grace with Twelve-Step Spirituality.

He has this to say about religion: “To me, religions are like languages: no language is true or false; all languages are of human origin; each language reflects and shapes the mindset of the civilization that speaks it; there are things you can say in one language that you cannot say or cannot say as well in another; and the more languages you know, the more nuanced your understanding of life. Judaism is my mother tongue, yet in matters of the spirit I strive to be multi-lingual. In the end, however, the deepest language of the soul is silence.”

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