Links for March 11th

  • – IT pioneer Joseph Weizenbaum dies: I’m surprised that this obituary hasn’t circulated more widely. Weizenbaum was the creator of ELIZA, the proto-chatterbot program (here’s a Web-based version) that, in the 1960s, demonstrated how readily people will accept a crude rule-based simulation of conversation as the real thing — filling in the blanks, as it were, of a computerized persona. Then he wrote a great humanist critique of the digital-triumphalist perspective titled Computer Power and Human Reason — a book that all the geniuses at Google should be required to read as a healthy counterweight to their “algorithms rule!” world view.
  • Monitor | The battle for Wikipedia’s soul | Inclusionists vs. Deletionists! I hear those words and can’t help recalling Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light, in which Accelerationists battled with Deicrats. The labels — “inclusion” is far more appealing, and flattering to our self-images, than “deletion” — foretell the outcome.
  • Failure to connect: Steve Johnson of the Chicago Tribune interviewed me for a column about the Net in movies.
  • Time Out of Mind: Times op-ed points out that our organic experience of time is shaped by physical activities.

    Inner time is linked to activity. When we do nothing, and nothing happens around us, we’re unable to track time…. To measure time, the brain uses circuits that are designed to monitor physical movement… Believing time is money to lose, we perceive our shortage of time as stressful. Thus, our fight-or-flight instinct is engaged, and the regions of the brain we use to calmly and sensibly plan our time get switched off. We become fidgety, erratic and rash.

    Which leaves us to wonder whether time spent at the keyboard is perceived as “nothing happening around us.”

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