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Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Internet as a Garbage Dump

The Wall Street Journal's weekend edition (3/15-3/16/08) noted the passing of Joseph Weizenbaum, 1923-2008, in its Remembrances column. Some excerpts from writer Stephen Miller--

'As author of a computer program called Eliza that was designed to simulate a psychiatrist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Joseph Weizenbaum created a beguiling artifact of early computing. But after test subjects told him the program really empathized with their problems, Mr. Weizenbaum became a digital Jeremiah, and spent decades preaching the computer apocalypse.'

'The program was in effect a form of a Turing test, named for the computer scientist Alan Turing. In 1950, Turing predicted computers would soon be invented that would appear to think, and said a test of that development would be whether a person could distinguish a computer's dialogue from a human's.'

'...He soon soured on computers and condemned automated decision making as antihuman. In a lighter moment he called them "a solution looking for a problem".'

...'Even the rise of the Internet, with its seemingly boundless possibilities for communication, failed to impress Mr. Weizenbaum.'

"The Internet is like one of those garbage dumps outside of Bombay," he told the New York Times in 1999..."There are people, most unfortunately, crawling all over it, and maybe they find a bit of aluminum, or perhaps something they can sell. But mainly it's garbage."

MrKen has to agree that this observation is right on the money. Much of what is described by some as "opinion" posted on the Internet by the unwashed masses is just simplistic, uninformed nonsense. Unfortunately, these rants greatly outweigh in volume the articles and research posted by professional writers.

But these inane rants and scribblings would certainly not pass the Turing test!

To visit the Wall Street Journal Online, follow this link: http://online.wsj.com/public/us

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