Nintendogs puts existentialism in the palm of your hand

Joshuah Bearman in LA Weekly:

Computers were still huge assemblies of vacuum tubes and transistors when the German-Jewish émigré and computer scientist Joseph Weizenbaum published a paper called “ELIZA — A Computer Program for the Study of Natural Language Communication between Man and Machine,” in Communications of the Association for Computing Machinery 9. It was 1966, and Weizenbaum programmed ELIZA to simulate the “active listening” psychoanalytical strategies of the Rogerian therapy in vogue at the time. It began:

>>Hello. How do you do.
Please state your problem.

Any typed response elicited a question in return from ELIZA, with key words and phrases substituted and organized in such a way as to sound meaningful and further probing. ELIZA’s mere 200 lines of code, running on the room-size IBM 7094, were effective enough to quickly draw the deepest secrets from many users, including several psychiatric practitioners, who asked if ELIZA could be adapted as a clinical tool; Weizenbaum’s own secretary, who had seen him build the program, knew her interlocutor was not real, and yet still found herself so engaged in personal conversation with the machine that she asked to be alone with it for privacy.

So unfolded a watershed moment in the long history of people and their machines.

More here.