It is hard to believe that the pursuit of artificial intelligence is not a phenomenon of the twentieth century. For over three hundred years, the boundaries between bodies and machines – the natural and the artificial, the animate and the inanimate – have been passionately explored. These explorations, beginning in the seventeenth and eighteenth and increasing during the nineteenth century, have been all but forgotten, lost beneath the commotion of the modern day world. This book retrieves these lost histories, giving voice to the hopes, dreams, and fears of philosophers, medical practitioners, engineers, craftsmen and artisans who have all been fascinated by the interface between bodies and machines. The journey back in time unfolds with the mysterious advent of mechanical philosophies, which conceptualized the body and the surrounding world largely in terms of mechanistic interactions. These theories develop in intriguing directions and fuel experiments in such areas as material production and social punishment, spiritualism and mental health. From reanimating dead bodies with electricity, which led to the introduction of the electric chair, through to the use of machines to render ‘hysterics’ and the insane fit for reintroduction into society, this book conveys the dark truths behind our relationship with machines.This book is not only an exceptional contribution to the history of technology but also to contemporary debates about humans and machines.
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|Published - 01 Dec 2002