Magazine article The New Yorker

They, Robots

Magazine article The New Yorker

They, Robots

Article excerpt

In 1739, the French inventor Jacques de Vaucanson unveiled his latest startling creation: an anatomically convincing, yet wholly mechanical, duck--one that quacked, ate grain, and, most impressively, excreted. Vaucanson's mechanical duck was a sensation, and, as Rodney A. Brooks relates in his engaging FLESH AND MACHINES: HOW ROBOTS WILL CHANGE US (Pantheon), one of the celebrated early attempts to replicate--or, at least, imitate--life. Brooks, who showed up in the Errol Morris documentary "Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control," directs the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at M.I.T., and "Flesh and Machines" tells the odd history--from that Enlightenment duck to Deep Blue, a computer program that famously beat Garry Kasparov at chess--of what he calls "mankind's centuries-long quest to build artificial creatures." Recently, Brooks oversaw the development of Kismet, "the world's first robot that is truly sociable, that can interact with people on an equal basis. …

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