Joseph Weizenbaum (born January 8, 1923 - died March, 5th 2008) was a professor emeritus of computer science at MIT.
Born in Berlin, Germany to Jewish parents, he escaped Hitler's 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 University.
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 sees as a consequence of their not having been raised in
the emotional environment of a human family.
Today he is Chairman of the Scientific Council at the Institute of Electronic Business in Berlin.
Joe Weizenbaum died on March 5th 2008 near Berlin, 85 years old.
"Wo sind sie, die Inseln der Vernunft im Cyberstrom?", Herderverlag, 2006.
"Remembering Joe W.", InformationWeek
"Famed Programmer...", New York Times
"Joseph Weizenbaum...", Boston Globe
"Parsing Joseph W.", IntelligentEnterprise
"MIT EECS Announcement", MIT EECS
"Artificial Stupidity", The Guardian
Honours and Awards
DSc. h.c., New York
DLit. h.c., Daniel Webster College
D. h.c., Bremen
D. h.c., Hamburg *Festschrift
Norbert Wiener Award, CPSR
Namur Award, IFIP
Vision97 Vaclav Havel Award
Wikipedia article on Joseph Weizenbaum.
Beats Biblionetz von Beat Döbeli Honegger.
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility
Institute of Electronic Business, IEB.
ELIZA online demonstration
Joseph Weizenbaum at the Symposium for Symbolic Languages, Rome 1962