On January 26th 2018, the Conference of European Rabbis and the World Jewish Congress conducted a panel discussion on the “New Technologies and Related Ethical Problems” at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama, Israeli politician and statesman, member of the Knesset Isaac Herzog, former Deputy Secretary of State and Treasury Secretary Stuart Eizenstat participated in the discussion moderated by the President of the Conference of European Rabbis, Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt.
The panelists discussed how new technologies affect lives today and what moral and ethical problems they entail. “Ethical problems associated with technological progress can be assessed from different perspectives: from political, religious, and so on. Someone will find that they can improve the life of a person, someone else might believe, on the contrary, makes it worse. From the religious point of view, progress also entails a large number of ethical and halachic issues. It is hardly possible to come to a common opinion within the framework of even one, but numerous discussions. However, we cannot deny that technology changes us – our behavior, habits, and ways of achieving goals change. But all these changes should not occur at the expense of our faith and our integrity. We must be able to maintain our principles based on humanity and the pursuit of peace,- “Rabbi Goldschmidt said in his speech.
After all the panelists spoke, the guests of the discussion had the opportunity to ask their questions. Among them, the question was asked whether, according to speakers, the Holocaust would have happened if social networks had existed back then? The question sparked a wave of reactions, but even the panelists did not agree: Mr. Eizenstat suggested that the wide publicity that social networks provide could stop the Holocaust, but Isaac Herzog suggested that the existence of Facebook or Twitter would not change anything.
“Just in the next few years, the level of technology development will allow the automation of so many more daily activities. Does this mean that, for example, it will be possible to program a car for a trip on Shabbat? It’s a question. It should be understood that any program will also require a decision on what to do in an emergency situation – for example, in the event of a threat to human life. And these questions, in spite of the level of automation, can be solved only by a person. This is a matter of ethics, morals, which without technology can have a disastrous effect, “- said Rabbi Goldschmidt.