[SIGCIS-Members] Fw: [CSL] FW: <nettime> computer critic Joseph Weizenbaum died, age 85

Neil Barton neil.barton at uclmail.net
Tue Mar 11 07:27:53 PDT 2008

You may be interested in the undernoted.

Dr Roger Neil Barton
Visiting Research Fellow, Institute of Historical Research
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Joanne Roberts" <joanne.roberts at NEWCASTLE.AC.UK>
Sent: Monday, March 10, 2008 12:41 PM
Subject: [CSL] FW: <nettime> computer critic Joseph Weizenbaum died, age 85

-----Original Message-----
From: nettime-l-bounces at kein.org [mailto:nettime-l-bounces at kein.org] On
Behalf Of Geert Lovink
Sent: 07 March 2008 12:10
To: nettime-l at kein.org
Subject: <nettime> computer critic Joseph Weizenbaum died, age 85

(In the fall of 2007 an old friend of mine, the Amsterdam-based
journalist-artist Ine Poppe decided to hop on the train and go to Berlin
to visit Joseph Weizenbaum. She did an interview with him and came back
with lots of interesting stories. It was around the same time that I
read the interview book , made by Gunna Wendt, in German. I wrote about
it in a nettime posting called the Society of the Query.
Ine gave me a document, in German called Was ich am Ende meines Lebens
glaube, 1 DIN A4 with 14 theses on it. It's hanging above my desk, in
front of me. "5) Not all aspect of life are computable." The same can be
said about Weizenbaum's life. /geert)


Joseph Weizenbaum (Berlin, January 8, 1923 - March 5, 2008) was an
American professor emeritus of computer science at MIT.

Born in Berlin, Germany to Jewish parents, he escaped Nazi Germany in
1936, emigrating with his family to the United States. He started
studying mathematics in 1941 in the US, but his studies were interrupted
by the war, during which he served in the military. Around 1950 he
worked on analog computers, and helped create a digital computer for
Wayne State University. In 1955 he worked for General Electric on the
first computer used for banking, and in 1963 took a position at MIT.

In 1966, he published a comparatively simple program called ELIZA which
demonstrated natural language processing by engaging humans into a
conversation resembling that with an empathic psychologist. The program
applied pattern matching rules to the human's statements to figure out
its replies. (Programs like this are now called chatterbots.) Weizenbaum
was shocked that his program was taken seriously by many users, who
would open their hearts to it. He started to think philosophically about
the implications of Artificial Intelligence and later became one of its
leading critics. His influential 1976 book Computer Power and Human
Reason displays his ambivalence towards computer technology and lays out
his case: while Artificial Intelligence may be possible, we should never
allow computers to make important decisions because computers will
always lack human qualities such as compassion and wisdom. This he saw
as a consequence of their not having been raised in the emotional
environment of a human family.
Weizenbaum was the creator of the SLIP programming language.

A few years ago, Weizenbaum moved to Berlin and lived in the vicinity of
where he used to live with his parents.[1][2] Until his death he was
Chairman of the Scientific Council at the Institute of Electronic
Business in Berlin.

See also: http://www.duvet-dayz.com/archives/2008/03/07/587/

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