The speculative sections of the book contain numerous dubious little theories, such as this one about the dehumanizing effect of of the invention of the clock: ``The clock had created literally a new reality; and that is what I meant when I said earlier that the trick man turned that prepared the scene for the rise of modern science was nothing less than the transformation of nature and of his perception of reality. It is important to realize that this newly created reality was and remains an impoverished version of the older one, for it rests on a rejection of those direct experiences that formed the basis for, and indeed constituted the old reality. The feeling of hunger was rejected as a stimulus for eating; instead one ate when an abstract model had achieved a certain state, i.e. when the hand of a clock pointed to certain marks on the clock's face (the anthropomorphism here is highly significant too), and similarly for signals for sleep and rising, and so on.''
This idealization of primitive life is simply thoughtless. Like modern man, primitive man ate when the food was ready, and primitive man probably had to start preparing it even further in advance. Like modern man, primitive man lived in families whose members are no more likely to become hungry all at once than are the members of a present family.
I get the feeling that in toppling this microtheory I am not playing the game; the theory is intended only to provide an atmosphere, and like the reader of a novel, I am supposed to suspend disbelief. But the contention that science has driven us from a psychological Garden of Eden depends heavily on such word pictures.
By the way, I recall from my last sabbatical at M.I.T. that the feeling of hunger is more often the direct social stimulus for eating for the ``hackers'' deplored in Chapter 4 than it could have been for primitive man. Often on a crisp New England night, even as the clock strikes three, I hear them call to one another, messages flash on the screens, a flock of hackers magically gathers, and the whole picturesque assembly rushes chattering off to Chinatown.
I find the book substandard as a piece of polemical writing in the following respects:
I see no evidence that Weizenbaum forsees his work being used in this way; he doesn't use the phrase laissez innover which is the would-be science bureaucrat's analogue of the economist's laissez faire, and he never uses the indefinite phrase ``it should be decided'' which is a common expression of the bureaucratic ethic. However, he has certainly given his fellow computer scientists at least some reason to worry about potential tyranny.
Let me conclude this section with a quotation from Andrew D. White, the first president of Cornell University, that seems applicable to the present situation - not only in computer science, but also in biology. - ``In all modern history, interference with science in the supposed interest of religion, no matter how conscientious such interference may have been, has resulted in the direst evils both to religion and to science, and invariably; and, on the other hand, all untrammelled scientific investigation, no matter how dangerous to religion some of its stages my have seemed for the time to be, has invariably resulted in the highest good both of religion and of science''. Substitute morality for religion and the parallel is clear. Frankly, the feebleness of the reaction to attacks on scientific freedom worries me more than the strength of the attacks.