Machines, minds and computers
Machines, minds and computers

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Machines, minds and computers

1.1.3 What has been the public attitude to artificial creatures?

Chess automata and mechanical animals astounded and delighted the 18th and 19th century public. However, the prospect of truly humanoid creations, with human powers, has always aroused much more mixed feelings.

SAQ 1

Look back at the brief quotation from Isaac Asimov's The Evitable Conflict'. What is your reaction to the vision of a world absolutely run by benevolent machines?

Answer

Probably the same as mine: suspicion and hostility. Whatever humanity's shortcomings, and however great its ignorance, we would all prefer our fate to be in the hands of humans rather than machines.

A constant wavering between antagonism and approval runs through the history of humanity's long love affair with technology. The prospect of artificial creatures brings this ambivalence dramatically into the foreground. You'll recall that the Golem started as trusted protector of the Jews of Prague. However, it soon became a danger and had to be destroyed. To the extent that talking heads were believed in at all, they were seen as the work of the devil. The robots of Asimov's stories, although supposedly governed by iron laws preventing them from harming humans, all too often seem to be on the verge of running amok. Even today, many people are suspicious of the power of computers and of the role they play in our lives. And now, when at last we have a limited power to manipulate living things through gene technology, and perhaps to use this technology to tailor life to our needs, such work is widely believed to be a dangerous and immoral interference with nature.

M366_1

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to university level study, find out more about the types of qualifications we offer, including our entry level Access courses and Certificates.

Not ready for University study then browse over 900 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus