Thursday, October 31, 2013

Computers suck - a prescient computer scientist named Joseph Weizenbaum critiques their so-called "intelligence" in 1985

  An amazing computer scientist named Joseph Weizenbaum turned against computers as a general force for good in the 1970's. He led an amazing life - he was a refugee from Nazi Germany as a child, and ended up at MIT. He did in 2008, unfortunately. An excerpt of an amazingly prescient interview from 1985:

Q: Do you think that the computer is creating a technical elite, reinforcing old power structures, or remaking American society?
A: I think the computer has from the beginning been a fundamentally conservative force. It has made possible the saving of institutions pretty much as they were, which otherwise might have had to be changed. For example, banking. Superficially, it looks as if banking has been revolutionized by the computer. But only very superficially. Consider that, say 20, 25 years ago, the banks were faced with the fact that the population was growing at a very rapid rate, many more checks would be written than before, and so on. Their response was to bring in the computer. By the way, I helped design the first computer banking system in the United States, for the Bank of America 25 years ago.
Now if it had not been for the computer, if the computer had not been invented, what would the banks have had to do? They might have had to decentralize, or they might have had to regionalize in some way. In other words, it might have been necessary to introduce a social invention, as opposed to the technical invention.
What the coming of the computer did, "just in time," was to make it unnecessary to create social inventions, to change the system in any way. So in that sense, the computer has acted as fundamentally a conservative force, a force which kept power or even solidified power where is already existed.

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