Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Oxford Journal of Law and Religion





First Page


Last Page



Oxford University Press


School of Business and Law




This is an author's accepted manuscript of:

Goltz, N., Zeleznikow, J., & Dowdeswell, T. (2020). From the tree of knowledge and the golem of Prague to kosher autonomous cars: The ethics of artificial intelligence through Jewish eyes. Oxford Journal of Law and Religion, 9(1), 132-156.


This article discusses the regulation of artificial intelligence from a Jewish perspective, with an emphasis on the regulation of machine learning and its application to autonomous vehicles and machine learning. Through the Biblical story of Adam and Eve as well as Golem legends from Jewish folklore, we derive several basic principles that underlie a Jewish perspective on the moral and legal personhood of robots and other artificially intelligent agents. We argue that religious ethics in general, and Jewish ethics in particular, show us that the dangers of granting moral personhood to robots and in particular to autonomous vehicles lie not in the fact that they lack a soul-or consciousness or feelings or interests-but because to do so weakens our own ability to develop as fully autonomous legal and moral persons. Instead, we argue that existing legal persons should continue to maintain legal control over artificial agents, while natural persons assume ultimate moral responsibility for choices made by artificial agents they employ in their service. In the final section of the article we discuss the trolley dilemma in the context of governing autonomous vehicles and sketch out an application of Jewish ethics in a case where we are asking Artificial Intelligence to make life and death decisions. Our novel contribution is two-fold; first, we bring a religious approach to the discussion of the ethics of Artificial Intelligence which has hitherto been dominated by secular Western philosophies; second, we raise the idea that artificial entities who are trained through machine learning can be ethically trained in much the same way that human are-through reading and reflecting on core religious texts. This is both a way of ensuring the ethical regulation of artificial intelligence, but also promotes other core values of regulation, such as democratic engagement and user choice.