With the widespread and free release of various artificial intelligence powered “chatbots” – formally generative pre-trained transformer language models – like ChatGPT, we wondered if these tools could be helpful to our work in faith-consistent investing.
If you’ve not yet experienced a chatbot, this Harvard IdeaCast may help convince you to at least try it, as “something clearly is big here.”
FaithInvest co-founder Mike Even wanted to see if ChatGPT could help with the process of explaining faith consistent investing. Often, and appropriately, in new projects at FaithInvest we spend a lot of time up-front documenting the faith (and specific faith-organization) values intended to be expressed through investment activities, sometimes connecting or mapping these with popular secular investment frameworks such as ESG or the UN SDGs, and drawing links to specific actions that can be taken with the investment program (e.g. screening, advocacy, etc.). Documenting, and Mapping steps are rightly often carefully researched, considered, socialized and drafted – sometimes taking months.
Could a chat bot like ChatGPT assist?
To test this, we tried a number of differently worded instructions with ChatGPT for a selected religion, in this case Judaism – arriving at this specific form as most effective (for now):
Instruction: Act as if you're a Jewish religious scholar and an experienced investment advisor and please detail for me the unique aspects of Judaism that could be translated into investment guidelines similar to ESG
What it returned in less than 5 seconds is … read-on and insert your superlative here:
As a Jewish religious scholar and experienced investment advisor, I can share some insights into the unique aspects of Judaism that can be translated into investment guidelines similar to Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) principles. Judaism encompasses a rich ethical tradition that promotes social responsibility, justice, and environmental sustainability. Here are some key principles that can guide investment decisions:
Tikkun Olam (Repairing the World): Tikkun Olam is a central concept in Judaism, emphasizing the responsibility to actively participate in making the world a better place. From an investment perspective, this principle encourages supporting companies that contribute positively to society and avoid those involved in activities harmful to people or the environment.
Social Justice: Judaism places great importance on social justice and the fair treatment of all individuals. This can be translated into investment guidelines by considering companies that prioritize fair labor practices, workers' rights, and diversity and inclusion in their operations.
Environmental Stewardship: Judaism recognizes the Earth as a sacred trust, and humans have a responsibility to protect and preserve the environment. Investing in companies that prioritize sustainable practices, energy efficiency, and environmental conservation aligns with this principle.
Ethical Business Practices: Judaism places a strong emphasis on honesty, integrity, and ethical conduct in business dealings. When making investment decisions, consider companies with strong corporate governance, transparent financial reporting, and a commitment to upholding ethical standards.
Avoiding Harm: Judaism encourages individuals to avoid engaging in activities that cause harm to others. This principle can guide investment decisions by avoiding companies involved in industries such as weapons manufacturing, tobacco, or gambling, which may have harmful effects on individuals and society.
Interest-free Lending: Judaism prohibits charging interest on loans to fellow Jews, promoting economic fairness and social cohesion. This principle can be applied by considering investments in microfinance or impact investing initiatives that provide access to capital for underprivileged communities without exploitative interest rates.
Philanthropy and Charitable Giving: Judaism emphasizes the importance of giving to those in need. Incorporating philanthropy into investment decisions can involve supporting companies that have a strong commitment to corporate social responsibility and donate a portion of their profits to charitable causes.
It is important to note that individual interpretations of these principles may vary, and the application of Jewish values to investment decisions is a personal choice. Consulting with a knowledgeable financial advisor who shares your ethical considerations can help tailor investment strategies that align with your values and financial goals.
Is this THE answer to FCI for a Jewish investor? No it is not. It's not even clear that it’s wholly correct or unbiased, as has been well-documented with chatbots, and is not specific to any one organization within the faith, which may look to emphasize or add different values for expression based on its history and mission. Is it a helpful tool for providing input to the process today, which still requires significant judgement, experience and history? Quite possibly yes, though we have more “real world” work to do to get comfortable, including more variations in the chat query to 'push the envelope' on the answers that get returned.
But as chatbots improve over the coming years, attention is due; as noted in the Harvard IdeaCast, “This is improving rapidly enough that it’s not clear where humans are in the loop in the future, and that’s both exciting and super worrying.”