Mayday! Mayday! An Oy Veh Anti-Semitism AI Addendum


What does artificial intelligence have to say about preventing anti-Semitism?

artificial intelligence



“The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise to the occasion.”

- Abraham Lincoln

Last Friday, I shared my column “The Oy Veh Way to Recovery and Resilience.” The Jewishly-oriented phrase “Oy Veh” is used to convey the exasperation of addressing the underlying anti-Semitism. That column was a preview of my upcoming presentation at the Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) on May 20th, where I am to discuss the Jewish way to recovery and resilience from so much trauma and losses over thousands of years.

A daunting task for sure. So much so, that I asked a colleague more knowledgeable about artificial intelligence (AI) whether AI might come up with something new to reduce and prevent anti-Semitism. The answer by Google’s system, Bard, was:

“I am not programmed to assist with that.”

Oy Veh! Now what? A computer expert friend offered to ask the latest ChatGPT system and asked the same question. How can we as a society reduce anti-Semitism? This time there was an answer.

“Reducing anti-Semitism in society requires a multifaceted approach that involves education, dialogue, and collaborative efforts among different groups. Here are some strategies to consider.”

However, those strategies started with columns and lines of words, many seemingly nonsensical. The chat closed with:

“By implementing these strategies, society can work together to reduce anti-Semitism and create a more inclusive and respectful environment for all.”

The 2 clear statements seemed to replicate the strategy that has been used for years and years now, with results that are best described as perhaps preventing anti-Semitism from getting worse. Yet, on slower and deeper reflection on how psychiatry looks below the surface communication for deeper meaning, there seems to be more of value. The word “multifaceted” would seem to include medicine and psychiatry. Then, needing an effort “among different groups” reflects that the solution requires the inclusion of other groups, especially other scapegoated ones. The chat ends with “for all.” Although those in power seem to react by making others their scapegoats, having such divisiveness can actually decrease the well-being of all in conflict, and usually eventual turnover of power.

My computer expert then said we could ask a more specific follow-up question, so I did, one in line with the multifaceted approach.

“What can the profession of psychiatry do to reduce and prevent anti-Semitism?”

The answer:

“Psychiatrists and mental health professionals can play a crucial role in reducing and preventing anti-Semitism by addressing the psychological aspects of prejudice and discrimination. Here are some ways they can contribute.”

Even more columns of words and word fragments, what at first glance seems like a gobbledygook of words. However, with a careful consideration of the full and partial words, what can be teased out includes the need for allyship and to create safe spaces for Jewish patients and their families to openly discuss their experiences with anti-Semitism. The final summary is:

“By implementing these strategies, psychiatrists and mental health professionals can contribute to reducing and preventing anti-Semitism, ultimately fostering a more inclusive and supportive society for all.”

While I was impressed that ChatGPT interpreted psychiatry to include all mental health professionals, this otherwise seemed to be a fairly basic summary of what has been out there in the literature, which is precisely what ChatGPT is designed to do. Something more innovative still depends on our human creativity and courage.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues related to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times.

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