[SIGCIS-Members] A New Book

Ceruzzi, Paul CeruzziP at si.edu
Fri Feb 3 13:26:35 PST 2023

Thanks, Jim.
I plan to check it out.

On a somewhat related topic, I tried out ChatGPT (so you don't have to!), and I asked it who was the source of the quote that only 5 computers would serve the world's needs. A topic, by the way, that was discussed extensively in past issues of the Annals​. It came up with:

Thomas J. Watson, the president of IBM, is often quoted as having said in 1943 that "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." This statement is often cited as an example of a bold prediction that was ultimately proven to be incorrect, as the number of computers in use today is vastly greater than five.

Strictly speaking, it is not wrong in that Watson is often quoted, but by whom? And who really was the source of the quote? Typical weasel by ChatGPT to use the passive voice and avoid answering the question.

I also asked it for a list of pioneers of space science and technology, and it came up with, among the usual pioneers,  Arnold Sommerfeld. ??? I wonder if that was an example of the "Matthew Effect": Wikipedia gives Sommerfeld credit for so much of modern physics, why not credit him with the development of rocket science as well? He was a great physicist but does not belong on that list.

Its replies are grammatically correct and free of spelling or punctuation errors, which is impressive, at least to me.  And it got other things right. I guess it draws heavily on Wikipedia, but obviously not the Annals. Why not just go to Wikipedia directly?  I found it pretty easy to break, which makes me think this may be a modern version of Joe Weizenbaum's ELIZA.


Paul Ceruzzi
From: Members <members-bounces at lists.sigcis.org> on behalf of James Cortada via Members <members at lists.sigcis.org>
Sent: Friday, February 3, 2023 12:23 PM
To: sigcis <members at sigcis.org>
Subject: [SIGCIS-Members] A New Book

External Email - Exercise Caution

A book I have written has just been published and thought it might be of interest to this community: Birth of Modern Facts.  I explore how information has changed over the past 150-200 years by looking at these transformations through the lens of disciplines (e.g., computer science, library science, physics, economics, etc.) and their ecosystems.  Every chapter includes discussions about the role of computing, too.  The publisher (R&L) has offered a discount to individuals, for which I attach its coupon.  Should you like to discuss my ideas in the book I am all ears, because I am still exploring this broad theme and one book cannot settle the issue in my mind.



James W. Cortada
Senior Research Fellow
Charles Babbage Institute
University of Minnesota
jcortada at umn.edu<mailto:jcortada at umn.edu>
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