Genesis Redux: Essays in the History and Philosophy of Artificial Life

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Since antiquity, philosophers and engineers have tried to take life’s measure by reproducing it. Aiming to reenact Creation, at least in part, these experimenters have hoped to understand the links between body and spirit, matter and mind, mechanism and consciousness. Genesis Redux examines moments from this centuries-long experimental tradition: efforts to simulate life in machinery, to synthesize life out of material parts, and to understand living beings by comparison with inanimate mechanisms.

Jessica Riskin collects seventeen essays from distinguished scholars in several fields. These studies offer an unexpected and far-reaching result: attempts to create artificial life have rarely been driven by an impulse to reduce life and mind to machinery.  On the contrary, designers of synthetic creatures have generally assumed a role for something nonmechanical. The history of artificial life is thus also a history of theories of soul and intellect.

Taking a historical approach to a modern quandary, Genesis Redux is essential reading for historians and philosophers of science and technology, scientists and engineers working in artificial life and intelligence, and anyone engaged in evaluating these world-changing projects.

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Editorial Reviews

Art in America
Exceptionally satisfying food for thought.

— Nancy Princethal

The strength of Genesis Redux lies in its scholarship and range of topics. Clockworks, mechanical toys and their influence on biological concepts are presented in fascinating detail.

— Greg Bear

British Journal for the History of Science
These eclectic essays will entertain and educate. . . . This volume can be recommended to anyone interested in the history of artificial-life research, and the history of the life sciences more broadly.

— Jacob Stegenga

Rodney Brooks
“Each of the essays in this volume ranges widely across technical and philosophical domains. They examine both familiar automatons from throughout history and delight us with yet more that will likely be unfamiliar to most readers. But the real treat of the essays is how they will make Artificial Life researchers squirm as they recognize their own intellectual sleights of hand exposed for all to see. Those researchers and the Genesis Redux contributors are all ultimately interested in what it is that truly distinguishes us beings from other lumps of matter.”
Art in America - Nancy Princethal
"Exceptionally satisfying food for thought."
Nature - Greg Bear
"The strength of Genesis Redux lies in its scholarship and range of topics. Clockworks, mechanical toys and their influence on biological concepts are presented in fascinating detail."
British Journal for the History of Science - Jacob Stegenga
"These eclectic essays will entertain and educate. . . . This volume can be recommended to anyone interested in the history of artificial-life research, and the history of the life sciences more broadly."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226720814
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 8/1/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Jessica Riskin is associate professor of history at Stanford University and author of Science in the Age of Sensibility: The Sentimental Empiricists of the French Enlightenment, also published by the University of Chicago Press, and winner of the American Historical Association’s J. Russell Major Prize.
Riskin received her Ph.D from the University of California, Berkeley.

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Table of Contents

List of Contributors     ix
List of Illustrations     xiii
Acknowledgments     xvii
Introduction: The Sistine Gap   Jessica Riskin     1
The Imitation of Life in Ancient Greek Philosophy   Sylvia Berryman     35
The Devil as Automaton: Giovanni Fontana and the Meanings of a Fifteenth-Century Machine   Anthony Grafton     46
Infinite Gesture: Automata and the Emotions in Descartes and Shakespeare   Scott Maisano     63
Abstracting from the Soul: The Mechanics of Locomotion   Dennis Des Chene     85
The Anatomy of Artificial Life: An Eighteenth-Century Perspective   Joan B. Landes     96
The Homunculus and the Mandrake: Art Aiding Nature versus Art Faking Nature   William R. Newman     119
Sex Ratio Theory, Ancient and Modern: An Eighteenth-Century Debate about Intelligent Design and the Development of Models in Evolutionary Biology   Elliott Sober     131
The Gender of Automata in Victorian Britain   M. Norton Wise     163
Techno-Humanism: Requiem for the Cyborg   Timothy Lenoir     196
Nanobots and Nanotubes: Two Alternative Biomimetic Paradigms of Nanotechnology   Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent     221
CreatingInsight: Gestalt Theory and the Early Computer   David Bates     237
Perpetual Devotion: A Sixteenth-Century Machine That Prays   Elizabeth King     263
Motions and Passions: Music-Playing Women Automata and the Culture of Affect in Late Eighteenth-Century Germany   Adelheid Voskuhl     293
An Archaeology of Artificial Life, Underwater   Stefan Helmreich     321
Booting Up Baby   Evelyn Fox Keller     334
Body Language: Lessons from the Near-Human   Justine Cassell     346
Index     375
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