“Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?” said Groucho Marx to his wife when caught in bed with another woman. At least, that is what I believed was the quote’s origin. However, his brother, Chico Marx, said the line, and not in bed but in the 1933 movie “Duck Soup.”  The truth about the quote’s origins underscores the difficulty in discerning the truth. Ultimately, the quote resonates because, too often, we can be persuaded not to rely on empirical evidence we have witnessed. We now live in a world where facts sometimes give way to beliefs and misbeliefs.

Moses admonished the Hebrews on this very problem. Preparing the people to conquer Canaan, Moses reminded them to focus on what they knew was true. Why fear the Canaanites when God is on your side? Moses said they needed to recall “the wondrous acts that you saw with your own eyes, the signs and the portents, the mighty hand, and the outstretched arm by your own God liberated you.” Deuteronomy 7:19.

However, Moses’ approach was problematic. For the few remaining survivors of the Exodus, they must engage 40-year-old memory. The rest were born after the Exodus, and they did not see God liberate the people. Old memory and inherited memory are as good as lying eyes.

Israeli-born psychologist, Daniel Kahneman, taught the world about the irrational mind and the fallibility of memory. According to Kahneman, our memories are not accurate to the truth of the events. Instead, we remember a distorted version of the truth. Take a fallible memory and add altered reality, and you should anticipate disaster.

Moses, Marx, and Kahneman unwittingly anticipated the most recent iteration of the lying eyes, Artificial Intelligence. Today, the ability to alter what is true and create images endangers our civilization. Not only does AI belie belief and mar memory, but AI creates a new truth. With this power, everything is at stake. From personal interactions to international relations, facts are hostage to lying eyes and minds.

Our nation is reeling from our last presidential administration’s modern application of “the Big Lie.” Even without artificial intelligence, educated Americans were willing to believe altered versions of the truth about elections, politicians, and immigrants.  With AI, the problem is exponentially worse. Anyone can create facts divorced from truth. Imagine the unholy alliance of AI and criminal minds. Even more terrifying is the marriage of AI and anti-democratic forces.

Perhaps Moses had it right, but he didn’t go far enough.  Remember what you saw with your own eyes, but don’t rely upon what is set before you by lying eyes. Ultimately, our only protection from the abuse of artificial intelligence will be our ability to demand accuracy.  What you believe to be valid requires review. What you know to be true may be limited to the empirical evidence in your life. Seeing is no longer believing in the age of AI. And, like Moses cautioning the people, I am reminding the world to remember this warning and seek truth in all things.

Rabbi Evan J. Krame