In Flesh and Machines Rodney Brooks writes that January 12, 1992, marked "the most important imaginary event in my life." On that day in the movie "2001: A Space Odyssey," the HAL 9000 computer was given life. Of course,
HAL turns out to be a murdering psychopath, but for me there was little to regret in that. Much more importantly HAL was an artificial intelligence that could interact with people as one of them. . . . HAL was a being. HAL was alive.
Brooks goes on to speak of Cynthia Breazeal, his prot g e at MIT's Artificial Intelligence Laboratory:
On May 9, 2000, Cynthia delivered on the promise of HAL. She defended her MIT Ph.D. thesis about a robot named Kismet, which uses vision and speech as its main input, carries on conversations with people, and is modeled on a developing infant. Though not quite the centered, reliable personality that was portrayed by HAL, Kismet is the world's first robot that is truly sociable, that can interact with people on an equal basis, and which people accept as a humanoid creature. . . . People, at least for a while, treat Kismet as another being. Kismet is alive. Or may as well be. People treat it that way.