Joseph Weizenbaum

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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.

inseln Latest Publication

"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
Alexander-von-Humboldt Award
FiFF Award
Vision97 Vaclav Havel Award
Großes Bundesverdienstkreuz

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
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