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The Real History of Artificial Beings

H umans are an ingenious species, and our ingenuity has done more than produce a rich array of imaginary artificial beings. It has also worked to realize such creatures, to actually make them.The history of true constructed beings is shorter than the vir- tual version, because successful real-life engineering is often slower than the creation of fantasies. But the real history is also more compli- cated because it is not always easy to separate myth from reality, espe- cially in accounts from the remote past; for instance, can there be any shred of truth, no matter how minuscule, in the rumors of talking heads made by Albertus Magnus and others?

Nevertheless, there is a chronological record of what has truly been made. It shows that the fascination with synthetic beings ap- peared early and in each historical era, and that in each era, artificers, engineers, and inventors simulated life with the best available tech- nology. From the vantage point of today’s high-technology world, these early efforts might seem limited, but many were astonishingly clever. And, as is true for every kind of technology, what we can do today to create artificial beings is utterly dependent on what has gone before.

To make robots, androids, and human implants requires prowess

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