Human beings have always been fascinated with making life, in its many forms, and with all of the tools and technologies of the day at our disposal. Our cultures, histories, and myths are steeped in tales of the making (and taking) of life: gods who make human beings to do their biddings; gods who transform themselves into human beings, if only temporarily; ancestral figures who transform themselves into humans; strange hybrids of gods and human beings with blends of skills and powers, as well as the misappropriation and abuse of them.
In this talk, Dr. Genevieve Bell will explore a distinct set of narratives about making life by focusing specifically on those that employ technology. Specifically, she will examine how, where, and why we might locate robots within this larger set of cultural and historical conversations.
The word “robot” had immediate and global resonance when it first appeared in the 1920s, in no small part because it conjoined centuries of literary and technical activities. We had already built mechanical objects (and indeed mechanical people), and we had imagined making life. Thus the very idea of the robot immediately typified a rich and contested cultural history of technical strivings and literary imaginings; and it has ever since.