ELIZA: How may I help you?

In the late 1960s, Joseph Weizenbaum wrote a program at MIT that would mimic natural language. He called this program ELIZA, and it was modelled on Rogerian psychotherapy.  This type of therapy is person-centered, meaning the client talks through his/her own issues while the therapist responds to the statements or concerns without necessarily answering or giving advice.  This method is meant to help the client find his/her own way towards understanding and solving problems.

Weizenbaum’s ELIZA stirred things up a bit.  It begged questions of human vs. artificial intelligence – what does it mean to have language – who or what has the ability to engage in language.  Weizenbaum noticed that people reacted very emotionally to ELIZA, depending on the program as a therapist.  In response, he wrote Computer Power and Human Reason:  From Judgment to Calculation in 1976.

If you would like to try out ELIZA, try these websites:  here.1 and here.2.

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