Friday, 25 March 2011

The Dangers of Golem Building (and what is a Golem anyway?)

Risks of Building a Golem

In my previous post, I outlined the basic process for managing risks as a Project Manager. From finding out what they are, planning on how to deal with them should they happen and how to stay on top of managing your risks.

OK, so I get that the theory of Project Management is a bit of a dry subject hence this post to explain the risks associated with building a Golem. Actually I should put in the caveat that this risk register is by no means exhaustive.

First of all let’s start by asking: What is a Golem?

According to Wikipedia definition is:
In Jewish folklore, a Golem (Hebrew: גולם‎; English pronunciation: /ˈɡoʊləm/ GOH-ləm) is an animated anthropomorphic being, created entirely from inanimate matter. The word was used to mean an amorphous, unformed material in Psalms and medieval writing.[1] The most famous Golem narrative involves Judah Loew ben Bezalel, the late 16th century chief rabbi of Prague.

Activating Golems

During the Middle Ages, passages from the Book of Creation, Sefer Yetzirah, were studied as a means to attain the mystical ability to create and animate a Golem, although there is little in the writings of Jewish mysticism that supports this belief. It was believed that Golems could be activated by an ecstatic experience induced by the ritualistic use of various letters of the Hebrew Alphabet.[3]

In some tales, a Golem is inscribed with Hebrew words that keep it animated. The word emet (אמת, "truth" in the Hebrew language) written on a Golem's forehead is one such example. The Golem could then be deactivated by removing the aleph (א) in emet, thus changing the inscription from 'truth' to 'death' (met מת, "dead"). Legend and folklore suggest that Golems could be activated by writing a specific series of letters on parchment and placing the paper in a Golem's mouth.
Anyway, in a nutshell a Golem is a manlike figure of clay brought to life through the power of the Hebrew letters as explain in Sefer Yetzirah. So if you already have a copy of Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan’s Sefer Yetzirah translation and commentary, you can look up Golem building in chapter 2.

The other book that I recommend for people more familiar with English than Hebrew (myself included) is: “Golem: Jewish Magical and Mystical Traditions on the Artificial Anthropoid”.

Just as a side note, Golem legends go all the way back to the Talmud and can come in the form of humans or animal form (such as calves).

Golem in Prague

Next question: How do you build a Golem?

In summary you need to master the meditative techniques in Sefer Yetzirah along with someone else which takes three years. Then you need some virgin clay, white clothes and to meditate on the Hebrew letters in such a way as to create a spiritual body. This is then infused in to the clay and brought to life.

The level of purity and holiness of the creator of the Golem has a large impact. In a story in the Talmud the reason a Golem could not speak was due to a blemish in the character of its creator. See the story in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 65b) or Rava sending a Golem to Rav Zeira.

Last question: Why all this background information?

Because I’m not sure all my readers are as knowledgeable and obsessed with understanding how to build Golems as me. Plus in order to understand the risks of doing a project, you need to understand at least some of the details of what you are going to be doing.

Show me the Risks already!

OK, these risks are spelled out using a 4 part description.
  • Fact – what is the situation now?
  • Risk – what may or could happen?
  • Effect – what is the outcome of the risk occurring?
  • Action – how are you managing the risk?

Now on to the risks…

FACT:    Lack of knowledge how to build a Golem
RISK:    May make a mistake creating a Golem   
EFFECT:     Physical or spiritual injury could occur, possibly causing practitioner to perish
ACTION:    Study hard! (Mitigate/enhance)

FACT:    Lack of available virgin clay
RISK:    May not be able to find clay untouched by human hands   
EFFECT:    Either procedure fails or Golem could be malformed or influenced by the effects of the previous person to interact with the clay
ACTION:    Research nearby geography, history and find an expert. (Mitigate/transfer)

FACT:     Meditation exercises of letter manipulation are very precise.
RISK:     Mistake could be made during the technique.
EFFECT:    Either have to start again or effect could be that injury occurs to practitioner (due to forming spiritual body mirrored on own limbs).
ACTION:    Need second expert to ensure no mistakes are made. Else have to start over. Hint: practice beforehand together. (Transfer/enhance)

FACT:    Meditation exercises take a long time
RISK, EFFECT, ACTION: same as the above risk.

FACT:    Golems are not supposed to be used for mundane tasks   
RISK:    Golem may run amok! Yes, amok I tell ya!
EFFECT:    Golem causes injury to practitioner or bystanders. It could also cause property damage. If unable to remove writing that animates Golem then may need large amount of firepower to neutralize thread of rampaging Golem, especially if it is coming right at you.
ACTION:    Inform anyone interacting with the Golem of this risk and its outcome, especially anyone who may be tempted to put it to use for mundane tasks such as catching fish, mopping floors and carrying wood.  (Avoid)
FACT:    Golems are supposed to rest on Shabbat
RISK, EFFECT, ACTION: same as the above risk.

FACT:    Golems are being made obsolete by advances in robotics   
RISK:    Robots may be preferred due to easy of manufacture and maintenance   
EFFECT:    Fewer Golems and more robots. If AI is developed and it sees Golems as a threat, this could lead to robot vs. Golem warfare.
ACTION:    Invest in robot manufacturer company shares when the impending war gets in to the News. Sell when the shares peak and then unleash your Golem army. (Mitigate/exploit)