RIP Joseph Weizenbaum
wolfgang at openmoko.com
Fri Mar 7 20:25:29 CET 2008
Was always good to read his latest 'angry thoughts', and I'm sure many
people in the Free Software scene in Germany will miss him.
MIT The Tech, April 1985:
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
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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