Joseph Weizenbaum (1923-2008) was not only a computer science pioneer, but also an important critic of the computer society. His theses on artificial intelligence and the responsibility of science are highly topical in the year of his centenary – for example due to the great success of ChatGPT. Weizenbaum saw a danger in the idea that people were predictable and that their abilities could be replaced by computers. The reading seminar will focus on two chapters of his main work “Computer power and human reason: From judgment to calculation” (1976, Engl. “Die Macht der Computer und die Ohnmacht der Vernunft”, 1977). These are chapter 8 on “Artificial Intelligence” and chapter 10 “Against the Imperialism of Instrumental Reason”.

The seminar will discuss which references can be made to current discussions and what relevance Weizenbaum’s theses still have today. In addition, the life, work and impact of Joseph Weizenbaum will be introduced. The two chapters mentioned above should be read in preparation for the course. Reading recommendations for more in-depth reading are given below. This is a course for beginners. Previous knowledge is not required.

Maximum number of participants: 8 persons in attendance, 8 persons online

Seminar leader

Preparation (Seminar Reader):

  • Weizenbaum, J. (1976). Computer power and human reason: From judgment to calculation. H. Freeman. (Chapters 8+10)

Advanced literature:

  • Weizenbaum, J. (1972). On the impact of the computer on society: How does one insult a machine? Science, 176(4035), 40-42.
  • Weizenbaum, J. (1972). Nightmare computer. Is the human brain only a machine made of flesh? DIE ZEIT No. 3, 21 January 1972, p. 43
  • Weizenbaum, J. (1978). Once more-a computer revolution. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 34(7), 12-19.
  • Pörksen, B. (2000). The human image of artificial intelligence. A conversation with Joseph Weizenbaum. Communicatio Socialis, 33(1), 4-17.
  • Weizenbaum, J. (2001). The responsibility of scientists and possible limits of research. In (ed.), Computer power and society (pp. 120-132). Suhrkamp.
  • Weizenbaum, J. (2019). The Last Dream. AI & Society, 34, 177-194.

An event as part of the joint Qualification program Digitilization Research by bidt, CAIS and Weizenbaum-Institut.

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