Mens en machine

Friday, 25 February 2011

The hisory of humanity as it is taught in schools is not our real history. It is the history of fear and power. Many humans have been busy with other things that did not get onto the history books.Among the overlooked or neglected obsessions that humans seem to have is the desire to create an artificial intelligence.
My interest in this subject began with robots. Robots were popular toys when i was a boy, although none of the robots that i had could do more than produce light, stumble a bit and make some simple noises. Only much later i realised that robots are aprt of the wide spectrum of products and ideas that together form the off spin of the omngoing quest for artificial intelligence.
Last week Arjen van Bochoven gave me this book:

The book is an historical oversight of the products of the pioneers in this field. I have other books in which early machines are descibed, but René Simmen not only gives the longest list of early mavhines that i have seen so far, he also quotes from many historical sources that i had never heard of. The problem with this subject is that almost all machines from before 1600 (and many of later periods) have disappeared without a trace. All that is left are descriptions and many of these descriptions seem to be overrating the capacities of the machines. I don’t think that there were any real machines before 1500. Around this time mechanical clocks and planetariums were invented and basically they are the earliest real machines. There may have been built some mecanical birds before 1500, but i doubt if they were as good as they are described.
Among the early descriptions of machines are many animal robots. But for me it gets really interesting when the mechanical chess players and writing machines show up. Here is a chapter on a writing machine built around 1755 by Pierre-Jacquet Droz:

I think that the Internet is the robot/android/A.I. that people for ages having been trying to create. But because it doesn’t look like a thing or a human, the Internet is not seen as an artificial intelligence.
About ten years ago i wrote a story about God, who used to humans to built a body for himself to dwell in. That body was ofcourse the Internet. It was not just a story: i cannot help finding it very weird that humans are so obsessed with building something that does hardly has any real purpose or reward for individuals. We use the Internet, no doubt about that, but it seems to me that most people would be far better of spending a lot less time behind their computer. It is an obsession that has no yet a good explanation to my mind.

And here is another picture of our new bookcase, now filled with books, including René Simmens “Mens en machine”: