Computer Power and Human Reason by Joseph Weizenbaum The Elements of Programming Style by Brian W. Kernighan Technopoly by Neil Postman The Art. WHERE THE POWER OF THE COMPUTER COMES FROM Joseph Weizenbaum. 3. AGAINST THE IMPERIALISM OF INSTRUMENTAL REASON Born in Berlin, Germany, Joseph Weizenbaum immigrated to the United States as a child. He is among the world’s foremost computer scientists, as well as a.

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Computer Power and Human Reason: From Judgment to Calculation by Joseph Weizenbaum

Open Preview See a Problem? Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Computer Power and Human Reason: From Judgment to Calculation by Joseph Weizenbaum. Cimputerpages. Published January 1st by W. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Computer Power and Human Reasonplease sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Computer Power and Human Reason. Lists with This Book. Aug 15, William Li rated it it was amazing. Probably the most important book that I misunderstood in college. Jan 15, Paul Berry rated it it was amazing. A book too important to be read just once. May 23, Kami Bee rated it it was amazing Shelves: This was a book I really wanted to read after having heard much about it and, of course, played with ELIZA and ‘her’ successors and produced my own paltry successor.

I’m glad I made the effort to track it down. I really relate to Weizenbaum as a writer, because there are two clear sides to the way he approaches his topic. He starts by talking science in what is a quite accessible but no less technical manner.

He quickly shows himself to be a person who, more than merely knowing the theories and This was a book I really wanted to read after having heard much about it and, of course, played with ELIZA and ‘her’ successors and produced my own paltry successor. He quickly shows himself to be a person who, more than merely knowing the theories and formulas, has integrated them mentally to a point where he can speak intelligently for a significant period of time, putting many things together in a way that builds something the average individual may have seen all their life, but would never recognise alone.

He talks about our invention of timepieces, clocks. He eloquently demonstrates with this example and a few chapters what modern writers struggle to explain in a whole book: Weizenbaum speaks comparatively little about ELIZA, the work that causes him to be frequently referenced to present times.

Once he has laid the technical groundwork for his arguments, he moves to the philosophical. What motivated him to write this book was the realisation that so many had taken ELIZA so seriously and saw practical applications in the counselling arena, among others.

Weizenbaum’s perspective is that, while contentious areas of computer science research are not intrinsically bad, just because certain things can be done does not mean they should be done. His argument is reminiscent of, “don’t we have people to do these things? Rather than just opening the question, Weizenbaum pinpoints what he thinks is missing from discussions about technology and artificial intelligence: It would be too difficult to summarise all the intricacies of Weizenbaum’s argument, and indeed I doubt I fully understand most of them.

The main thing I took away from the latter portions of the book was the realisation that, indeed, we do struggle, as intellectuals, to say, ‘I simply think that it’s wrong to do this.


Computer Power and Human Reason: From Judgment to Calculation

Weizzenbaum seek the objectivity of logic. And yet what Weizenbaum seems to imply in so many ways is that logic, the clean-cut stuff we have used to build computers humwn express everything that is important about being human. I don’t know juman where I stand on everything asserted in the book. I think it will take me a while to absorb all of it.

What I think is really significant is that this book written in the seventies reads much like books on computed same topic might today, only with far greater clarity than most. More than most now, Weizenbaum seems confident enough in his abilities to say that, sometimes, mere application of logic does not work.

Sep 15, Courtney rated it really liked it. In addition to walking down memory lane, reminiscing on my study of computer engineering, I enjoyed a technical, philosophical, joseoh well as ethical treatment of artificial intelligence. I do like that Weizenbaum was willing to “just say no” to certain projects on a computer. And I truly felt his impassioned call toward personal responsibility in the last chapter.

The one thing that played out very differently than Weizenbaum predicted was speech recognition. He felt it would be too expensive and n In addition to walking down memory lane, reminiscing on my study of computer engineering, I enjoyed a technical, philosophical, as well as ethical treatment of artificial intelligence.

Computer Power and Human Reason: From Judgment to Calculation – Joseph Weizenbaum – Google Books

He felt it would be too expensive and not add enough value. And even though I’m single-fingering this review on my iPhone, I have considered the productivity joaeph that would come from voice input.

Weizenbaum’s guiding voice would simply advise to assure that I contribute relevant content, and a reminder of this will be the persistent lesson from his book.

Mar 19, Trevor Kroger rated it it was amazing. He has nothing he can analyze or synthesize; in short, he has nothing to form theories about. His skill is therefore aimless, even disembodied.

It is simply not connected with anything other than the instrument on which it may be exercised. His skill is like that of a monastic copyist who, though illiterate, is a first-rate calligrapher. H “[The compulsive programmer] cannot set before himself a clearly defined long-term goal and a plan for achieving it, for he has only technique, not knowledge. His grandiose projects must therefore computr have the quality of illusions, indeed, of illusions of grandeur” Weizenbaum,p.

Archaic and not particularly interesting. Jan 24, Ed Finn rated it it was amazing. Incredibly prescient given its date. A passionate argument for not forgetting our humanity in the face of the allure of computation.

Mar 03, Jonathan Lidbeck rated it it was amazing. How much do you trust a computer? The answer to this question has probably changed somewhat sinceand the relevance of this book has slipped. Now they’re all around us, they are commonplace, invasive. So, to appreciate Weizenbaum’s book fully, get in a time machine–to a time when you needed to schedule time to be joesph a computer, the computer had a cabal-like group of attendants to help you make requests of it, and this computer had anx presence–like a guru on a mountain, you came to it.

No How much do you trust a computer? What makes this jsoeph compelling is Weizenbaum’s outspoken deep love for computers, the creative act of programming, and those who do it. Weizenbaum is the author of the famous ELIZA program, a simple, elegant English-language parser which, for the course of a brief, casual conversation, might to carry on an intelligent conversation with the user. He tells stories of laypeople who, even with a thorough understanding of how the program works–how each word in its output is determined solely by the human input–feel that ELIZA really, somehow, cares for them.


Users actually requested private sessions with the program in order to discuss more personal matters. This is just human nature, though, our willingness to succumb to illusion. Weizenbaum’s purpose in writing seems like a magician coming clean, showing his audience the secret compartments and trapdoors. He spends the first three chapters explaining computers, game theory, and Turing machines using extended metaphors, guiding his reader step-by-step through guman processes by which a procedure not the physical computer, but the essence of one can ‘think’ and perform complex tasks.

He emphasizes over and over how poser action is fully deterministic; the computer can not ever choose to act or initiate any action itself. Weizenbaum gradually makes clear the purpose of this meticulous tour. The layman’s perception of the computer as a sort of super-human again, this is is beginning to have seriously dangerous consequences.

Like the secretary who requested a private audience with ELIZA, government officials, psychologists, and bioengineers see the computer as having abilities beyond processing logic. Industry leaders push the computer as the most important innovation, ever: While this technological optimism may have faded some since the ’70s, there is something else Weizenbaum describes that is absolutely timeless: Weizenbauum tell us that within so many years technology will be able to do such and such: We feel plwer the only real test of progress is its ability to amaze: Weizenbaum loathes this state of affairs.

Remember, we are still in control of the direction and pace weizebaum technological development. Scientists are pressing forward without regard for “higher” principles or the possibility that there exist things that we can, but perhaps should not, do. Ppower all seem to have the innocence, the obliviousness, of the monomaniacal, compulsive programmers he has described earlier.

This reactionary stance–the opposition to the amorality of science–is certainly not unique to Weizenbaum. But in weizenbum with a loving look at computers, it josfph this book unique. The problem weizenbzum when computers are put in charge of life-and-death decisions. Weizenbaum cites many cases where people have come to a point of crisis and a major change compuger to be made, some dealing with large segments of the population.

The advent and hype of computer technology has convinced the decision-makers that what they need is to apply more computer power, replacing human tasks with machines which do the same. Our fundamental thinking here is wrong, he states. Instead of sitting down and trying to find a better way of humn things, using our human intuition and initiative, we now have the option of throwing technology blindly at the problem.

Instead of finding alternatives to going to war in Vietnam, we used computers to help automate the location of strategic targets and to convey information and misinformation from the front. Here’s where Weizenbaum changes modes, and there’s a problem with his moralizing assertions. He lays out what he believes technology should not ever do: The problem is that he provides no logic to support his thesis.

Instead, he seems to think it should be obvious that to substitute mechanisms for human functions is “immoral.