Essay: The Mind in the Machine

The factory robot that crushed a man to death in Japan last year did little to silence the talk that machines are a threat to human preeminence. That talk has been alive ever since people first discovered that they could manufacture tools vastly superior to themselves; in Samuel Butler's satire Erewhon (1872), the citizens establish a museum of old machines in which they at once deposit and abandon their mechanical inventions, which they believed would swallow up their souls. When machines possess artificial intelligence, like computers, the human fear of being overtaken seems...

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