Essays in the History and Philosophy of Artificial Life
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.
“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.”