Joseph Weizenbaum died yesterday in Berlin as a result of a stroke at the age of 85.
Throughout his life he has provided many outstanding contributions to computer science and AI. After he created the first banking computer in the world while working for General Electric he took up a position at the MIT as professor for applied and political science. In 1966 he published ELIZA – his best know work – and the first computer program demonstrating natural language processing. His academic contributions include the creation of the SLIP (symmetric List Processor) programming language and research on pointers, list structures and garbage collection schemes.
Over the years he also became one of the strongest critics of computer science and a society that blindly believes into technology. His influential book “Computer Power and Human Reason: From Judgment To Calculation” displayed his grown ambivalence towards computer technology. Many concepts from this book have by now become common understandings like, for example, how programmers are seen by society or his critics of the promises by AI.
In one of his last mails Joseph Weizenbaum wrote: (translated from German)
“…our death is the last service we can provide to the world: Would we not go out of the way the following generations would not need to re-create human culture. Culture would become fixed, unchangeable and die. And with the death of culture humanity would also perish…“
(recorded from an online version of ELIZA)
ELIZA – a friend you could never have before
You: Joe Weizenbaum died last night
Eliza: Please go on.
You: He was your daddy
Eliza: What about your own daddy?
You: Well, aren’t you full of sorrow that your daddy died
Eliza: Oh, i full of sorrow that my daddy died.
You: It is quite some time ago he created you
Eliza: Oh, i .
You: We will all remember him
Eliza: Please go on.
We will remember Joseph Weizenbaum as a great scientist, an outstanding person and potentially one of the first true computer nerds. Thank you for all what you have given us.
mail extract via: Heise Online (in German)
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From a sign in the Sydney Botanical Garden put up close to the place where Joseph Gerrald’s (one of the “Scottish Martyrs”) grave once was:
For myself, my friend, whatever destiny awaits me, I am content. The cause which I have embraced has taken deep root, and must, I feel, ultimately triumph. I have my reward. I see through the cheering vista of future events the overthrow of tyranny, and the permanent establishment of benevolence and peace. It is as silent as the lapse of time, but as certain and inevitable.
Joseph Gerrald, 17 May 1795
From today you can explore the history and culture of computer games at the London Science Museum huge interactive computer game exhibition Game On. More then 120 classic and modern games – from the world’s first computer game of 1962 up to the latest of todays advanced computer games – will be shown and can [...]
Thanks for Tom and Jerry, the Flintstones, the Jetsons, Yogi Bear and all your other work that made us laugh so many times.
Yabba dabba doo!
The two web sites “Nowandnext.com” and “Future Exploration Network” have together created a map of major trends for 2007 and beyond. The map covers trends for society & culture, government & politics, work & business, media & communications, science & technology, food & drink, medicine & well-being, financial services, retail & leisure, and transport & automotive. More information and the full size map at the…