Chapter 13. Flesh and Machines:The Mere Assertions of Rodney Brooks

Chapter 13. Flesh and Machines:The Mere Assertions of Rodney Brooks

In Flesh and Machines: How Robots Will Change Us (2002) robotics guru Rodney Brooks informs us that "we are nothing more than a highly ordered collection of biomolecules":

Molecular biology has made fantastic strides over the last fifty years, and its goal is to explain all the peculiarities and details of life in terms of molecular interactions. A central tenet of molecular biology is that that is all there is.

Apparently fearing that we will be insufficiently gripped by his message, Brooks (who was director of the prestigious Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT when he wrote this book) goes on to say in the space of three pages:

The body, this mass of biomolecules, is a machine that acts according to a set of specifiable rules.

The body is a machine.

We are machines, as are our spouses, our children, and our dogs.

We are nothing more than the sort of machine we saw in Chapter 3 , where I set out simple sets of rules that can be combined to provide the complex behavior of a walking robot.... We are much like the robot Genghis, although somewhat more complex in quantity, but not in quality.

I believe myself and my children all to be mere machines.

We, all of us, overanthropomorphize humans, who are after all mere machines. (pp. 173 75)

Noting that some people may bristle at the word "machine" (not to mention the tedious repetition), Brooks acknowledges that he uses the word "to perhaps brutalize the reader a little." He feels the need to shake us free of any conviction that "we are special" meaning, in case you missed it: we should accept our status as "mere machines."



Devices of the Soul. Battling for Our Selves in an Age of Machines
Devices of the Soul: Battling for Our Selves in an Age of Machines
ISBN: 0596526806
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2007
Pages: 122
Authors: Steve Talbott

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