THE REAL HISTORY OF ARTIFICIAL BEINGS
humans that it does for many other animals, it is in a way our most fundamental sense. It connects directly to an ancient part of the brain, the limbic system, without the high-level processing that vision en- tails.That is why an odor can evoke mood or feeling instantly.As we’ll see later, emotional factors like these might be surprisingly relevant to the creation of intelligent artificial beings.
If there are lacks in artificial senses, there are also compensations, because the natural senses have limitations.The wavelengths of light we see are a small fraction of the range of electromagnetic wave- lengths in the universe, which includes infrared, ultraviolet, and more. But there are sensors that detect radiation at these wavelengths and give artificial vision extrahuman capabilities; infrared vision, for in- stance, can penetrate darkness. Other possibilities abound, such as us- ing sonar the way submarines do to probe the environment, as well as the functional equivalent of telepathy—direct mind-to-mind com- munication among artificial beings by radio.
The possibilities for touch, smell, and taste, and for extrahuman senses, are new enough that their further discussion belongs in the second half of this book. But another aspect of artificial creatures, their appearance, has roots that go back to mechanical automata.
For all their developing mental, sensory, and physical capacities, mod- ern digital artificial beings are inferior in one way to the eighteenth- century automata of Jaquet-Droz and de Vaucanson; they are not androids, they do not look human.The artisans who built clockwork automata took great pains to make their creations resemble people, modeling the faces and hair, dressing them well, and aiding the illu- sion with subtle but telling cues to humanness, such as having Henri Maillardet’s “Draughtsman-Writer” look down at the paper before starting to write.
Most modern artificial beings, however, do not look like real people.The 1939 World’s Fair clanker robot Elektro had a humanoid outline, with limbs, torso, and a head, but its size, metal body, and