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Would those who hold that a minor can serve as an agent in Jewish law (for a d'var r'shus - discretionary act, not a mitzva) hold similarly for a sufficiently intelligent and self-aware robot? The qualifications for the minor seem to be:

  1. He possesses the basic level of discernment to consciously accept the task and
  2. He has the faculties necessary for preforming it.

Or would a non-human always fail on criterion 1 no matter how much intelligence it could simulate?

(See, for example, the Sha"ch on Choshen Mishpat 182.)

  • Giving something to a robot is the equivalent of putting it on a conveyor belt. The fact that a robot can move and be programmed doesn't make it un"electronic". – yydl May 4 '11 at 18:37
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    Is a conveyor belt the same thing as a yard? If my yard can accomplish something for me (such as receiving or delivering) then can my conveyor belt do the same? This would mean the robot can at least do things for me as a chatzer [which is equivalent to a shali'ach for some intents and purposes!]. – WAF May 4 '11 at 21:59
  • Well a chatzer is an inanimate object that has certain properties (e.g. being "watched") that can accept. I'm not sure that a conveyor belt is or isn't a chatzer, but assuming it is - it's not movable, while a robot is. – yydl May 5 '11 at 4:11
  • I don't think a chatzer needs to be immobile by definition. What about a chatzer ham'haleches? – WAF May 5 '11 at 18:21
  • @WAF But there it's moving because you're moving - in your possession the entire time (or at least in your watching capabilities). Either way, that's still very limited: being a Chatzer doesn't help for most cases. – yydl May 5 '11 at 22:18
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As was answered in the original comments. You don't need a robot to be intelligent like a child. A robot is your property, and your property is a shaliach for you.

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I think a robot could be seen as a keli. if you want to make him shaliah of somehting it would be like puting it one one end of and escalator with the recipient on the other. for cooking it would be like any other machine today.

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I think there are difficulties with a non-Jew serving as an agent in Jewish law, to say nothing of a robot.

  • Most people hold that the Torah did not give proxy power to non-Jews. But a robot could be more like a child (incapable of higher levels of cognition but still somewhat capable) than like a non-Jewish adult. – WAF May 4 '11 at 15:20
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    Comparing a robot to a liviing person within Halacha, I think is faulty. Better to discuss a well trained animal, or in Jewish literature Golems. – avi May 23 '11 at 5:47

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