Friday, February 26, 2021

Eight books about the strange & curious world of early robots

Rebecca Morgan Frank’s fourth collection of poems is Oh You Robot Saints! (2021).

Her previous collections are Sometimes We’re All Living in a Foreign Country and The Spokes of Venus, and Little Murders Everywhere, finalist for the Kate Tufts Discovery Award.

At Lit Hub she shared a reading list that is "an eclectic sampling to help you navigate the world of automata that live in libraries." One title on the list:
Adrienne Mayor, Gods and Robots: Myths, Machines and Ancient Dreams of Technology

Was Pygmalion, to some degree, the first sex robot? Is realistic male chest armor the first artificial human enhancement? These are some of the assertions Mayor makes as she explores early imaginings of creatures that are “made not born,” and investigates aspects of “biotechne,” or “life through craft,” in tales of familiar mythical figures such as Hephaestus, Daedalus, Medea, and Pandora. Early robots are indeed the stuff of myths, as Mayor demonstrates in her unpacking of these early conceptions of artificial life; she also explores their materiality in ancient artifacts such as coins, vases, and mirrors. Perhaps most recognizable as a robot prototype is the hulking bronze automaton Talos, forged by Hephaestus, but Mayor teases out for the reader how these many myths of artificial life are precursors to the made automata and robots that follow. Mayor’s final chapter, “Myth and History,” does delve into the world of the made to note such engineers such as Philo, Heron, al-Jazari and Ma Jun, and crosses over into legends of automaton guardians of Buddhist relics in India. Through this guide to the ancient world of automata, Mayor reminds us that humans have already imagined pretty much everything.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 99 Test: Gods and Robots.

--Marshal Zeringue