This anthology of mostly 19th century fiction collects all the first portrayals of robot precursors including automatons, steam men, cyborgs, androids and machine life and displays the full range of their relationships to their human creators, from helpful servants to murderers and rebels. The selections are listed below. Those marked with an asterisk are excerpts; all others are full texts. The on-demand printer would not permit me to include the first robot pornography, but you can read it here.
E. T. A. Hoffman, "The Sand-man" (1817)
Giacomo Leopardi, "An Announccement of Prizes" (1834)
Edgar Allan Poe, "The Man That Was Used Up" (1839)
Herman Melville, "The Bell-Tower" (1855)
Edward S. Ellis, The Steam Man of the Prairies (1865)*
Samuel Butler, The Book of the Machines (1872)*
Edward P. Mitchell, "The Ablest Man in the World" (1879)
Auguste Villiers d'Isle-Adam, The Future Eve (1886)*
Cyrus Cole, The Dummies Revolt (1890)*
M. L. Campbell, "The Automatic Maid-of-All-Work" (1893)
Ambrose Bierce, "Moxon's Master" (1899)
L. Frank Baum, Ozma of Oz (1907)*
E. M. Forster, "The Machine Stops" (1909)
The assimilation of humans into machines, once science fiction, is a reality today. Each of us has virtual versions inside the two great machines of the late modern age. In the datascape, the vast array of databases in which the details of our daily lives are recorded and analyzed, we appear as profiles. In cyberspace, the global network of computers in which everyone can connect with everyone, we appear as personas.
Both are part human. We continually update both machines, passively and actively, and, as we do, our simulacra change in tandem. Both are part machine. The profile is a probabilistic portrait, conjured up by others to inform their decision making; it’s an informational output. The persona is a pattern of connections, created as we present ourselves to and interact with others; it’s a network effect.
Neither looks anything like the continuous, whole and bounded self of the modern tradition. Rather, these hybrid entities are contingent, relative and open. Silicon Simulacra describes how these two semblances come to be, how each represents us and what opportunities and challenges each poses. The conclusion suggests they are post-human forms -- digital doppelgangers of living humans in their near real-time particulars assimilated into machine worlds.