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MISSION & HISTORY

Conference Mission

The Internet and The Torah:
Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Algorithms and Social Media, The Danger and Promise

Whether we realize it or not, Artificial Intelligence is all around us and plays an active role in our daily lives. Every time we use our Smart Phone, do a Google search, open our Facebook newsfeed, make a deposit, or get a product recommendation from Amazon, AI is lurking in the background.

The 14th International Conference on Torah and Science will explore this timely topic when it looks at “The Internet and the Torah: Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Algorithms and Social Media, the Danger and Promise” on Dec. 8-11, 2021. The biennial event is sponsored by CYS College of Jewish Studies and is usually held at The Shul in Surfside, Florida. This year, due to Covid-19, it will be held virtually. 

Addressing the science of the Internet, an IBM technology officer will explain how it affects us, on conscious as well as unconscious levels. Also explored will be “Big Data,” referring to large data sets that spawn algorithms to reveal patterns, trends, and associations in the data – which is why, when you browse a website for shoes, you suddenly see an influx of shoe ads on your Facebook home page – and social media, those websites and applications that enable us to create and share content or to participate in social networking.

What potential dangers does AI pose? A panel discussion by international medical and legal experts will explore AI’s neurological, psychological, and addictive sway, as well as its very real threat to personal privacy and the impact it has on civil societies worldwide. There will also be a look at what Judaic teachings and secular law convey about privacy. 

Still, there is the promise AI offers by connecting us in meaningful and beneficial ways. A researcher at Stanford University’s Persuasive Technology Lab will discuss her scholarship and activism to use media to promote peace. One of the first religious organizations to embrace the Internet was Chabad, and participants will learn about the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s teachings about technology and its overall moral neutrality, emphasizing the possibility of and need for its use for positive goals.

Because the entire discussion is framed by Artificial Intelligence – the “beast” that drives the entire operation – participants will consider Jewish teachings about Intelligence. A professor from MIT and the President of CYS College with grapple with the questions: What is AI, what is Intelligence, and how do these two realms interact? In other words, is AI really intelligent?

For more information about the 14th International Conference on Torah and Science, contact Lydia Hasson at The Shul at 305-868-1411, ext. 311 or send an email to lydia@theshul.org.

Conference History

HISTORY OF THE MIAMI INTERNATIONAL TORAH & SCIENCE CONFERENCES
ABSOLUTE STANDARDS IN A WORLD OF RELATIVITY

When the Lubavitcher Rebbe blessed Rabbi Sholom Dovber Lipskar and Professor Herman Branover for organizing the First Miami International Torah & Science Conference, he circled the word “relativity” in the conference subtitle. The Rebbe noted that Einstein’s research probed the nature of light. Just as the speed of physical light provides a measure of absoluteness to the physical world, the light of the Torah commandments, invoked by kindling the Hanukkah candles, signifies another level of absoluteness. Thus, the First Miami Torah & Science Conference was held during Hanukkah of 1987 at the Sheraton Hotel of Bal Harbour. Its proceedings, entitled Fusion, were published in 1990 by Feldheim Publishers. The Second Miami Torah & Science Conference was held at the same venue on December 24-26, 1989.

Professor Nathan Katz of the Florida International University (FIU) and Ilana Attia of B’Or Ha’Torah Journal of Science, Life and Art in the Light of the Torah (BHT) joined the organizing committee for the third conference, held December 14-16, 1999, at FIU. Its discussions on the ethical problems of human cloning and genetic engineering were published in BHT 12 and 13. The theme of the fourth conference (December 18-20, 2001) was “Time, Space, and Being;” its papers were published in B’Or Ha’Torah 14 and 15. “Looking for Links between the Divine, Human, Natural, Artificial, and Virtual” was the theme of the fifth conference that took place on December 16-18, 2003. Its proceedings were published in BHT 16, 17, and 18. The theme of the sixth conference, held on December 13-15, 2005, “Unity, Duality, and Multiplicity” generated provocative discussion on how Jewish schools should respond to the Intelligent Design versus Evolution debate. These papers were published in BHT 17, 18, and 19.

 

On December 12-15, 2007, for the seventh conference the venue moved to The Shul of Bal Harbour, where the theme was “Through the Two-Way Looking Glass: Looking at Nature through the Torah & at Torah through Nature.” Most of these papers were published in BHT 19 and 20. In 2009, the eighth conference, under the banner of “Judaism at the Cutting Edge of Medicine, Genetics, Physics & Culture” was held at The Shul, and its papers were published in BHT 20 and 21, which heralded its new publisher, the Jerusalem College of Technology (Machon Lev) and editor-in-chief Professor Joseph S. Bodenheimer. The ninth conference, focused on “Memory, Soul, and Brain,” was held at The Shul on December 22-25, 2011. Its papers were published in BHT 22. The theme of the tenth conference, held at The Shul on December 13-16, 2013, was “Beginnings, Endings, and Renewals.” Its discussions ranged from Creation to assisted reproduction, fatherhood, and the end of life and beyond. Part of the written papers were published in BHT 23, and the remainder in BHT 24.

 

The tenth conference was made possible by the generous support of Mrs. Sylvia Fox, who dedicated the meeting to her late husband, Dr. Morry S. Fox. The eleventh conference reached out to heart and soul with the theme “Heart, Mind, Behavior and Purpose.” Held at The Shul on December 11-14, 2015, it was dedicated by Aryeh Leib ben Sarah Henia and Dr. Allen Packer in memory of his father, Menashe ben Mordechai Dovid, and its written papers were published in BHT 25. Under the banner of “Nature vs. Nurture: Intellect, Emotion, Behavior and Ethics,” the twelfth conference, held at The Shul on December 21-24, 2017, stimulated the audience with discussions on free will, the Internet, the brain, and robotics. The written papers of the 2017 conference are being prepared for BHT 26. The thirteenth conference, held at The Shul on December 12-15, 2019, explored the theme of "Sustainability, Resilience & the Torah" .  We look forward to a very interesting and successful 14th conference which is being planned for December 8-11, 2021.