"I have a mind like a steel... uh... thingy." Patrick Logan's weblog.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Computer Power and Human Reason

I read "Computer Power and Human Reason" 25 years ago, just as the AI boom was getting underway. The author wrote the book at least partly as a result of observing people using his ELIZA program.

In 1962, 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.) It is considered the forerunner of thinking machines. 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.
Joseph Weizenbaum died on March 5 of this year. As a Lisp programmer doing some AI programming, but not really being an "AI guy", his book and ELIZA helped me understand not only AI, but AI researchers!

1 comment:

Steve Vinoski said...

That book was one of my college textbooks, but it was for a humanities course, not a CS course (I studied EE, not CS, and in fact the school I attended offered no CS degree). I was intrigued by it way back then, and since I still have it, I've often considered reading it again. Thanks for the reminder to do so.

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Portland, Oregon, United States
I'm usually writing from my favorite location on the planet, the pacific northwest of the u.s. I write for myself only and unless otherwise specified my posts here should not be taken as representing an official position of my employer. Contact me at my gee mail account, username patrickdlogan.