creatureVictor Frankenstein created. Others stand out as well, such as the robots in Karel Capek’s 1921 play R.U.R., Fritz Lang’s 1927 film Metropolis, and Isaac Asimov’s 1950 book I, Robot.More recently, there are the androids in the 1982 film Blade Runner, bionic humans in the television series The Six Million Dollar Man (1973–1978),and a cyborg in the 1987 film RoboCop.
These tales illuminate every aspect of our complex thoughts and feelings, many of them contradictory, about artificial life.There is the visceral dread that envelops us as Frankenstein’s creature stirs into life, that deep fear of stepping across the boundary between the living and nonliving.Yet we also feel compassion for the creature, as we do for the cyborg in the film RoboCop, who retains painful human emotions. At the same time, we admire RoboCop’s moral strength and reliabil- ity. Other creatures, from the manipulative female robot in Metropolis to the murderous androids in the erminator films, act evilly. Some carry no special moral stance, but bring us beauty, like the cyborg dancer Deirdre in the story “NoWoman Born” by C.L. Moore. Some are loved, and perhaps return love, like the android Rachael in Blade Runner. Examining these imaginary beings helps us understand our motives for making them, and predicts the attitudes we bring to their actual creation.
CREATURES OF BRONZE AND CLAY
Fears and dreams of artificial beings go far back, at least to the legend of Pygmalion the sculptor, an ancient Greek vision of inanimate mat- ter coming alive. Pygmalion made an ivory statue of a beautiful woman and came to love it. One day he returned from a festival in honor of the goddess Aphrodite, kissed the statue, and found to his delight that it turned into a warm and living woman, whom he soon married.
In the myth, Aphrodite brings the statue to life, in response to Pygmalion’s yearnings.Today, we expect technology rather than a god to intervene.The Greeks, too, recognized technology (the very word is Greek in origin) in another myth about a self-acting being made of