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Artificial intelligence reconstructs fragmented Jewish history

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Cairo genizah (wikimedia)
Cairo genizah (wikimedia)

Researchers have spent years trying to piece together the Cairo genizah — a centuries-spanning collection of more than 100,000 documents on early Jewish life and customs. Today, these documents are fragmented and scattered across the globe, making it difficult for scholars to manually catalog them. But as the New York Times reports, some see hope in a new artificial intelligence program capable of scanning and matching genizah fragments within a matter of minutes. At Tel Aviv University, researchers have created a network of 100 computers running AI software that conducts 4.5 trillion calculations per second. The idea is to apply a more scientific and automated method to an otherwise arduous and painstaking process.

"In one hour, the computer can compare 10 million pairs — 10 million pairs is something a human being cannot do in a lifetime," Roni Shwek, one of the project's leaders, told the Times. "It's going to be a very powerful tool for every researcher today that's going to work on one fragment. In a few seconds, he'll be able to find the other fragments, like finding the needle in the hay."