Jewish Androids

I finally got around to starting to watch The Big Bang Theory recently. It is hilarious! I was surprised by how much treatment of religion there is in the first half of the first season. I particularly liked the treatment of what it would mean to be a Jewish android, including circumcision and powering down on the Sabbath. Here’s the relevant bit of dialogue:

Sheldon Cooper: You know, in the future, when we’re disembodied brains in jars, we’re going to look back on this as eight hours well wasted.

Raj Koothrappali: I don’t want to be in a jar. I want my brain in an android body… eight feet tall and ripped.

Howard Wolowitz: I’m with you. I just have to make sure if I’m a synthetic human, I’d still be Jewish. I promised my mother.

Raj Koothrappali: I suppose you could have your android penis circumcised… but that’s something your rabbi will have to discuss with the manufacturer.

Sheldon Cooper: Not to mention, you’d have to power down on Saturdays.

There are so many interesting questions that one can explore via science fiction scenarios. If the mind of a Jewish person is transferred into an android, is the android Jewish? This can be a helpful thought experiment on the nature of Jewish identity, and indeed the nature of humanity. As the story “On Venus Have We Got a Rabbi!” the question of whether one has to be human to be Jewish is explicitly raised.

If you start looking around online, you can find a surprising amount related to this subject. There is a novel, Our Jewish Robot Future: A Novel About the Garden of Eden and the Cyborgian Transformation of the Human Race, Cyberg, ShaBot 6000, and I’m sure much else.

As an aside, I was delighted to see in the episode I mentioned at the start of this post that Leonard has an original Battlestar Galactica flight suit. I wish I did too. And I have told a version of the joke about spherical chickens in a vacuum…


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