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Computer Power and Human Reason: From Judgment to Calculation Paperback – March, 1976


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Publisher: W H Freeman & Co (March 1976)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0716704633
  • ISBN-13: 978-0716704638
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #112,944 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 10, 1997
Format: Paperback
This remains one of the best books about the role
of computers in our society, dealing with such
topics as:

(1) How computers, by doing clerical work faster
than human clerks, have enabled established bureaucratic
structures to endure, and therefore the "computer
revolution" has really
been a powerful conservative/reactionary social process.

(2) How huge incomprehensible computer systems come
to tyrannize people (both end users and
maintenance programmers) into submitting to the systems'
irrational behavior, because the known problems cannot be
fixed without risk of making things even worse.

(3) The social responsibility of
technical workers, who generally are myopically focused
on "efficiently" doing whatever they do, without
being concerned about *what* should be being done
and whether what *they* are working on is something which
should be done differently or not be done at all.

This book should be *must* reading for all computer
programmers, computer "scientists", et al., to help
them begin
to think more about the social context of technology,
and begin to aspire to *wisdom* and *responsibility*
commensurate with the social impact of their work.

"Computer Power and Human Reason"
is also well written to be understandable by
lay persons. A wide range of readers
should find it enjoyable,
interesting and thought-provoking.
Thus it can help "Everyman" understand
better the role of computers in our lives.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 5, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is perhaps the best book ever written on issues of computer technology and modern life, in the sense that it says a lot of really important things and is also very readable by both lay persons and technical persons. People like Jacques Ellul, Arnold Gehlen et al. have written very important texts in this area, but are much less "accessible". If the truth only counts when it is absorbed by persons, Weizenbaum's book stands out as being engrossing and a pleasure to read, as well as saying what needs to be said. It is very sad that the second edition which was supposed to be out a year or so ago has not appeared. But in no way has 20 years "dated" the present text. _Computer Power and Human Understanding_ explains why we have such problems as Y2K, etc.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 9, 1998
Format: Paperback
I read parts of this book, thinking highly of it. I thought one particular passage from it, as quoted in Gates by Stepehen Manes and Paul Andrews, particulary stood amid the limelight: [t]he computer programmer . . . is a creator of universes for which alone is the lawgiver. . . .No playwright, no stage director, no emperor, however powerful, has ever exercised such absolute authority to arrange a stage of field a battle and to command such unswervingly dutiful actors or troops.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By S. Sagarin on April 29, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
After reading through the other reviews, it strikes me that most of them are by and for--and make the assumption that the book is by and for--those engaged actively in making and programming computers. But it's not.

Virtually every life on earth--and certainly every life in the "first world"--is now intimately bound up with computers and the services they provide and the challenges they offer. This book examines these as thoughtfully as any book on the topic. Yes, Weizenbaum got some things wrong, but he's still among the most prescient writers on the topic, 35 years later!, and the ethical basis of the book--the reason we all should read it, whether or not our livelihood depends on knowing anything about computers--is well nigh eternal.

More important, the book isn't just about computers, it's about the relationship of human beings to technology.

Here's one of my favorite passages: "The salvation of the world depends only on the individual whose world it is. At least, every individual must act as if the whole future of the world, of humanity itself, depends on him. Anything less is a shirking of responsibility and is itself a dehumanizing force, for anything less encourages the individual to look upon himself as a mere actor in a drama written by anonymous agents, as less than a whole person, and that is the beginning of passivity and aimlessness."

(Apologies, in your absence, Joe, for the dated, sexist language, but the point is clear.)
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Sam Carpenter on June 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover
As I look around at the automotons in our midst (cradling their smart phones; lost in their worlds) it is clear that Weizenbaum was ahead of his time. I'm sure he was not endeared by his peers for having the backbone to warn of the danger of the rise of the machine.
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