You’ve probably never heard of Joseph Weizenbaum, a German American computer science professor at the world renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). You’ve probably never heard of ELIZA, either – the computer programme he created to demonstrate that machines could not replicate talking mental health therapy.

At least, that was the intention. But as students of his work would be quick to tell you, that’s not quite how things worked out.

Let’s rewind a little. The Sixties is now recognised as having been a hothouse of new trends and new ideas. Not just around fashion, music and film, but also in social consciousness (this is the age of peace and love and antiwar sentiment, after all) and in technological advancement.

Let...

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