Computerizing Religion, Medicine

Bar Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel’s only religiously-oriented university, has acquired one of the world’s largest computers to help it solve both religious and scientific problems. The IBM computer will enable the university to complete its indexing of the Responsa literature, a 1500-year-old compilation of Jewish case law, to conduct chemical experiments without even having to enter the laboratory, to give medical diagnosis without the computer seeing the patient, and to conduct meteorological research without sticking its nose outdoors.

In compiling Jewish case law, the computer will enable Jewish scholars, and religious court judges and attorneys to get immediate response to questions on marriage, divorce, debts, communal affairs and much more. Ezra Ben-Kohav, head of Bar Ilan’s Computer Center, said the computer is equipped with a memory storage and operating capacity of one million symbols, plus a disk system capable of storing another 600 million symbols.

ALSO SERVING THE PUBLIC

In addition to serving the university and its academic departments, the computer is also serving other schools and public bodies through a type-writer terminal whereby subscribers can transmit their queries to the computer via telephone lines and get their replies in the same way.

One of the computer’s most unique functions will be to help doctors at the government’s Sheba Medical Center make diagnosis of disease on the basis of the patient’s symptoms read to it from the special terminals. When the symptoms relayed are insufficient, the computer will ask the necessary questions and digest the answers before coming to any conclusion.

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