Monday, August 29, 2005

Tempting the Gods

As an aspiring roboticist, I'm always aware of the megalomaniacal nature of trying to make a machine that is (even a little bit) like a living thing. It is traditionally the sort of thing that Man Was Not Meant to Know, and just cause for the villagers to storm the laboratory with pitchforks.

I was thinking though that the criteria for outrageous technical hubris have really changed over time. Once upon a time just weaving a tapestry or playing a flute or constructing a tall building was enough to get you in dutch with supernatural powers. By the nineteenth century you had to be making new creatures by sewing human and/or animal parts together. Nowadays you pretty much have to be doing something involving DNA or possibly altering past history. I'm not sure that building giant robots even counts any more; it is becoming respectable.


At 6:38 PM, September 01, 2005, Blogger CDB said...


Without sounding snarky, would a modern example also include building a major U.S. city below sea level?

At 10:58 AM, September 04, 2005, Blogger Richard Mason said...

Yes, perhaps so. Yet no one is calling for evacuation of the Netherlands...

I guess I am pro-hubris. I think we should build cities in flood plains and on fault zones and in frozen climates and underwater if we want.


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