Session 2: Androids, Cyborgs, and The Human of Our Dreams

Session 2: Androids, Cyborgs, and The Human of Our Dreams

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Good morning, good afternoon and good evening, because I know we have quite a range of time zones. Welcome back. And if you missed last week, welcome aboard. Hopefully, you've started reading through some of the readings, if not all.

Again, as I mentioned last week, these are not required readings, but I think you'll really get more out of the class if you do venture out and go through all the texts meticulously. As I also mentioned last week, we're not going to do literary analysis simply because we don't have time and really that's not the focus of this particular class. So we're not going to do that. And I also want to make sure we leave a good amount of time for discussions. So today, how things are going to run.

I am going to, I have just put an alarm to go off at noon here, Eastern time to remind us that at that point we're going to go and talk about story number two. So we're going to spend the first half an hour on story number one, then we'll talk about story number two. Now, before I begin as was just requested and sure, I definitely do want to mention this so that you can start planning, was the question about what we're going to do for the last session.

So the last session, so the sixth week or the final week of the class, that's the class where we're going to focus on really your ideas, your dreams, your concepts, your imaginations, fantasies on how people envision humanity, really, and robots. And so what we're going to do there is literally I'm going to open the entire hour, really, to open discussion. And in a way we can kind of go sort of in a virtual round table, so to speak. Where go ahead and whoever would like to share, you're not required to share anything, but if you have, you're burning with desire to share some ideas, go ahead and present your concept, your idea, your story. If you happen to have been writing something, if you are writing something, if you're thinking about writing something, then by all means, please be prepared to perhaps even share an excerpt from your short story, from your novel, from poetry, from a theatrical production.

Really it's open to whatever type of genre you would like to do, you have in mind. The whole point, so that's what I'm going to do. I'm literally going to spend that hour, open it up to everyone and so that we can really have hopefully a virtual back and forth of sharing of these ideas. And maybe your colleagues here will inspire you further with your own story.

So that will be the format of the last week. As I said, you don't have to participate if you do not like to. Maybe you just want to listen in, that's perfectly fine as well, but certainly if you have something you're working on, have already worked on, maybe you have something you've already written, by all means that's also an option to share. Okay. So it's going to be pretty informal in that sense. Sometimes when I've done these types of virtual gatherings, sometimes it helps to start off.

I can even share myself something, a very short excerpt to sort of get us going, but certainly this is really for you guys to share your ideas and to get input from your colleagues here. Okay. So, all right. Let's get started.

Okay, so I ended last week with a 1950s to today slide, I'm just saying that I'm going to return to this. So I am going to go through what we know from the cognitive science computational perspective, where we are with respect to robotics, machine learning, machine intelligence, human intelligence, and robotic human machine interaction. I will go into that, but I'm going to save that for session four, which I think will be perfect when we enter into our discussion of simulated worlds and really the true cyborg situation where we're at today. So keep as a dot dot dot.

But for today, I want us to go back to the early 1800s and really I'm calling this the dawn of science fiction because again, I think this always boils down to we're always looking for dates, right? When was the first story, when a certain genre started and it's always difficult to do that simply because I think also it's a matter of finding the texts. It's a matter of having available texts and resources to be able to make that type of historical annotation. But typically we can think of the dawn of science fiction is happening in the 1800s and specifically with Mary Shelley's story, which we read for today, or parts of it that we read today, Frankenstein. But before we go into that, I do want to make a differentiation between the fantastical world versus the Gothic world and the science fiction world.

And simply because I think it sets up really nicely why certain writers and the writers we read for today. So Hoffmann and Shelley, how they really differ, how they take elements from these worlds and then how they differ. So fantasy genre is basically about presenting a fictional universe. It tends to be inspired and influenced by different types of myths or folklore. It originally started as an oral tradition. Of course, when we think back about storytelling since the beginning of human cave times, really.

I mean, before we had writing systems, storytelling was an oral tradition. And so we've seen that with fantasy it starts as an oral tradition, it enters into the literary world. It goes into the traumatical world and then we really hit by the 20th century, we're now using multimedia work.

So when technology's really entering in further into the artistic world, so we can see also historically how storytelling obviously changes according to technological advancement. So the fantastical world is generally different from the scientific fiction, science fiction world, simply because in the science fiction world it tends to focus on themes that are based on science and that is different from horrific type genres that tend to focus more on the macabre and then of course you can enter into the gore worlds. Also in the fantasy literature, the tendency is to use magic or supernatural elements. So that's what differentiates from the science fiction to the genre worlds.

Now, in terms of which was the first, slowly this fantastical genre has also sort of merged into the gothic fiction, gothic horror, gothic gore worlds. Perhaps, and I put perhaps in quotes because again, it boils down to finding the literature, but the original maybe first story of gothic fiction, gothic horror, was originated in England on 1700s around 1764, '65, Horace Walpole published the story that Castle of Otranto, a gothic story. This is just a screenshot of one of the illustrations that's been done on a book that's been published, a version has been published of that story. That's a whole, of course, a whole other discussion we could look at, book covers of these stories. So in this particular story it merges, the reason why it's considered gothic fiction and coming from the fantastical world is because it merges supernatural concepts, horror, death, and romance. And I put here in a question mark that it's not necessarily known if this was Walpole's original story or not.

It is a question mark as to whether it was an actual translation of a previous work that was made in Naples from a Italian writer in Naples from the early 1500s. So again, this really brings up the question that I was mentioning earlier of, it's hard to date this stuff in terms of the first story. And so what is this story about? Very, I actually read the story several years ago and I remember not being quite enthralled by it, to be honest. But it's a story of Manfred, who's the Prince of a Otranto who's son is about to get married to a princess and the son gets mysteriously killed by an enormous helmet.

And so there goes the supernatural element. And so Manfred decides to divorce his wife and marry the bride. So there we go with the death aspects and the romance aspects.

Moving forward to now the horror gothic, terror gothic. Again, these are all different titles, labels that have been used to describe the gothic genre. Again, these tend to come from academic circles. So here also first practitioner of the horror gothic world is considered to be Ann Radcliffe. Wonderful to hear we have a woman, a female writer, and she actually was quite a popular, apparently I think she was one of the most well paid novelists at the time. So this is during 18th century England.

She's known for a Sicilian romance, The Mysteries of Udolpho and the Italian. And the reason why she became more popular in terms of what I read about her works is that her storytelling was far more complex than that of which Walpole's work, so the Otranto prince story. And by complex, I mean she really apparently brought in a lot of imagery and evoked a lot in terms of creating landscapes and bringing in romantic elements and really bringing in concepts of villains and also then gore and just merging all of that highly vivid imagery. Further onto this gothic fiction, gothic horror world, we have really the widespread success came in the 19th century and it basically came in with, and again, I'm talking here about English language works, so Shelley's Frankenstein, Edgar Allen Poe is also known for his work.

So this time, also Charles Dickens and of course Stoker's Dracula. So gothic, the term originates from the goth, so peoples of the East Germany and it refers to medieval gothic architecture. And so, because it refers to that, that tends to be the setting for stories.

This does not mean that that is always the case. Certainly I think here, as we merge into, move into, the 20th century and to today, that has changed. But the concept of castles, monsters, ghosts, secret tribunals, cults, remote times in terms of the middle ages, remote places. So of course this we're talking here about England, so for them Italy and the Middle East is very exotic place for them. But so evil villains, beautiful heroines that tends to be [inaudible 00:11:59] the very common in this world. And so I wanted to just mention this because this is going to us set us up for what we read for today.

So very briefly. Okay, so we have only now about 18 minutes to cover Hoffmann, Der Sandmann. And let me give you a quick background about the author. So Ernst Theodore Wilheim Hoffmann, he's known as Ernst Theodore Amadeus Hoffmann. The reason why he's Amadeus as opposed to Wilhem, he actually changed his name because he was giving an homage to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

He was born in 1776 in Prussia and died in Berlin in 1822. He actually was educated as a lawyer and he became a Prussian law officer. He became a counselor in the Court of Appeal in Berlin in 1816. His main love, his passion really, was music. So he was actually a well known, also conductor, composer, music critic, and pager. Therefore, thus, you can see now why he would want to name himself in homage to Mozart.

If you know the classical musical world, the ballet Arlequin from 1811 and the opera Udine in 1816 may be known to you. So in terms of his writing, so he actually wrote quite a lot of short stories, two novels. He is considered a German romantic writer of fantasy and gothic horror. So, in our little very quick review of fantasy and horror you understand what that means, and hopefully you're already picturing how that affects the story that we read for today.

So he actually, prior to writing Der Sandmann, he actually wrote this other story, The Automaton. And he wrote that one in 1814. And the reason why I mention it is because I think it's crucial to understand really this story that we read for today, but this particular one was a short story that appeared in a very popular common, well known German language, general music newspaper about musical events.

And the reason why this story appeared in that newspaper was because in this story, which is about two friends and a fortune telling automaton, the Turk. The idea was that this automaton could reveal through his utterances his supernatural and psychic abilities. And in this whole discussion, actually, he Hoffmann spends a good deal talking about artificial intelligence, but more on the concept of music performance and music instruments. But this idea that machines are capable of bringing forth nature's voice. So what I mean by that is that it was really about thinking of machines and slashed instruments as vehicles of recreating sonority and what we call timbre in music, so the quality of sound.

And we need to keep in mind that during this time, a lot of different instruments were being made and these are just a few here mentioned, which you can think of as precursors to different types of horns and harpsichords-type instruments. And one really significant technological advancement, the time was here in 1810 to 1812. We had Johann Kaufmann who had actually created the trumpet player. So this was available at the time and it was actually considered one of the most famous androids. And it was basically of a man, a quote here, "dressed in Spanish costume" and his lungs were made out of leather bellows.

The reeds were meant to imitate trumpet sounds and apparently it was capable of creating two different types of tones. And so having this background, now we can talk about Der Sandmann because we are now aware that a writer, Hoffmann, is someone who is involved in the musical world very intimately. I mean, he actually is composing works. He was fascinated by instruments and automated instrumentation and this type of technology was already available, which makes sense, right? Because remember our discussion last week where we talked about DaVinci's work, right, that was influenced by al-Jazari and previous Chinese and Middle Eastern inventors and engineers. And so we can see that we have been, now we're talking about Germany here. And so we see from Italy, so from China, so Asia, to the Middle East, to Italy, to Germany, we see that this concept of thinking about humans being represented in some sort of mechanical way is happening, is influencing others ideas and inventions and certainly it's influencing Hoffmann as a writer.

So Der Sandmann, written 1815, 1816 published in The Night Pieces in 1817. So it's basically an epistolary, what we call an epistolary, short story, which means it's a story that's written through different, the use of letters. And so of course for us, that may not be a...

You may find that odd, right? Perhaps we would write something in terms of string of emails or texts, because we no longer write letters or maybe we still do. So that was actually pretty popular in the 18th century to do this type of writing of using the constant journals and diaries. So here, Der Sandmann is actually referring to Western Northern European folklore specifically. So here's that fantasy element. So it's really, the idea was that the Sandmann was a mythical character that puts people to sleep and gives them good dreams by sprinkling magical sand onto their eyes. For Der Sandmann, it's certainly not so innocent and calm and beautiful and kind.

The type of strength is sprinkling, magical sprinkling that happens here is now entering of course, into the more macabre and maybe even horror-ish elements. And who are main characters? We have Nathaniel, the main guy here, Lothar who's a friend of Nathaniel, Clara who's Lothar's sister, or Nathaniel's sweetheart or betrothed. And then we have this interesting character, right? We have Coppelius, who's also Coppola who's also the Sandman, or that's a question. Are they really all one in the same character? Professor Spalanzani with his automaton.

He has created his "daughter" here, Olimpia. We have mention of the Nathaniel's father and Siegmund. And so I'm going to now open to in this next 11 minutes to comments, questions and kind of what people thought of this story. And I just put these two ideas here, the role of eyes in perception of the world. So reality versus imagination, fantasy, or maybe what was the difference between how does the author represent the difference between the human female, Clara, versus the robotic female, Olimpia? And so I'm going to through this at you really.

I will actually stop sharing my screen so I can see you guys more clearly. And any ideas, comments, questions. What stood out to you? Anything anybody wants to throw out? Should we raise our hand...

Okay. Well, you hit on actually a fascinating author that I've read for many years and it was a great. I've always thought Hoffmann was a fascinating person because his influence was not just Poe and Dickens and so on. His influence goes up obviously to Hitchcock and then Neil Gymond, Damon.

I'm not sure how he pronounces his name. It just continues on. And things like Rear Window for example, I think Rear Window is Hoffmann taken to a totally different direction but notice again. You're right to focus on eyes, and on glasses, the pocket telescope with which Olimpia's first seen. All of that.

This is just like Jeff in Rear Window. He's having to use his eyes and view his world but he's having the assist of the binoculars. The woman in his story, I'm forgetting her name, Jeff's girlfriend. But then obviously the woman that he sees, the woman who dances, [yeah, yeah] the woman who is ultimately murdered. All of this through vision, through eyes, through telescopes, everything. All of this you can see, where Hitchcock, and others in between [right], hold all these different notions and so I think yes.

I love the fact that you picked right up on the eyes, glasses, whatever all of that. I mean that's key. I mean those concepts obviously have long been in literature.

Flannery O'Connor was huge on eyes, again you see through the soul and everything else. Okay I should stop [No, thank you!]. You've got me going because it's Hoffmann and I studied him [oh great] several decades ago and so that's why this jumped out like, oh Sandman. For me obviously it's a great choice.

And I think it really, you know Hoffmann is known for his works that really address the psychological element of human, of the mind. And, because we're talking about our relationship and where actually we're headed today, with respect to the machine for creating versions of ourselves, or our selves literally. I think when he compares and contrasts Olimpia, the robot, versus Clara. You know you have the human who is smart but she's cold but in an intellectual way, according to Nathaniel. And yet he, the male the human, falls in love with the idiot, the robot. Who has no awareness, has no intelligence.

And then because of the eyes and the glasses, he thinks she's emotional and interesting and so I think it really asks this question of, what do we want from these robotic systems? Well, that's right. But again, part of this ties to what do we want, even in a broader perspective and he's writing in such a key time. He's writing when Napoleon has just been defeated and finally put away and everything that was associated with Napoleon is obviously suspect.

And so the enlightenment and rationalism is suspect. Is that what we want to be? Is enlightened strictly rational creatures? He's part of the romantic but even he is critical and that comes through in the story that he's critical of even romantic concepts. But clearly there is a value as opposed to just strictly enlightenment. So yes, what should we be as humans and then what do we expect of our machines? We expect our machines. And it's interesting how he uses the diseased mind of Nathaniel, or the psychotic mind, to really ask that question of rationality. Well what is rationality, yes? You know coming from the enlightenment, or what is emotion? And that's interesting how the rational and the emotional, the separation probably of mind, body, spirit and so forth.

One thing I do want to mention, that I found fascinating, because the concept of the CAPTCHA. Hopefully everybody knows what a CAPTCHA is right - a completely automated public turing test to tell computers and humans apart. You've probably seen where you're entering into a site and you have to fill out those little squiggles or numbers or letters or look at those really pixilated images and find the fire hydrant or something. So that is a way to tell, as a modern turing test like, in which to tell whether you're a human versus a computer entering into a system. I find fascinating with that perspective, when we read this story, what ends up happening? Since all the men are like, oh my gosh, look at that guy who's fallen in love with that robot.

Now we need to check all women to see if they're not all robots. In a way, the idea of a CAPTCHA, concept is being created there not in the digital sense but in the real life sense where then all women are allowed what was it to yawn, to sing, to sew, to do different actions. Why? Because this idea of looking at what is critical to being human. It's about being outside of rhythm. Right, because Olimipia had perfect, rhythmic capabilities. She danced perfectly, a human individual wouldn't.

So we start looking for the errors and so I found fascinating, to reread this story with our modern mindset. I'm like, oh my gosh, did Hoffmann come up with the concept of a CAPTCHA? So, I just wanted to mention that because in terms of really addressing this question of, what are we looking for in our machines? Going back to the comment you brought up with the enlightenment and the moment and this issue of rationality again and fantasy and imagination and emotion really. It's just multi-layered so yes, I see a hand.

Peter? So, just to build on that a little bit. I was a bit perplexed in the beginning about the connection, and I still am, between the Sandman and his two manifestations and the subsequent characters. I mean, eyes comes into it a lot because the good Sandman is putting grit in your eyes to give you good dreams. The bad Sandman, according to the nurse, is taking the eyes of the children and feeding them to other people.

But here's my question, that relates to enlightenment. You know I skimmed through this, so I'd have to look in more detail, but it does appear there was the information that the father was killed because he and Copellius were participating in alchemy. And alchemy is an interesting interface at this, before this time because Newton is of course known for his, now somewhat outdated but nevertheless amazing laws of physics, but he was a big alchemist. So, if it was alchemy, if I read that right, that was why there was an explosion, it wasn't developed much in the story, but it might be an interesting point of discussion about the relationship between the emerging science and yet these other things called alchemy which were I guess viewed by some as scientific at that time. Yes, so it doesn't get further developed. It's a great point because it certainly brings up the question of, it goes back to the rationality versus the emotional and then also, in terms of the relationship that Nathaniel has with his father and then his father with the Sandman and Copellius.

In terms of what is it that we're creating, what are we visualizing in the world. The father creating his experiments yes with alchemy, working with the professor again at the end of the day. I almost think sometimes that when I was rereading the story, at one moment I almost thought the professor was also the Sandman and Copellius. I had this sort of weird interpretation maybe they all were he same. So maybe we're really talking about the scientist. Maybe this is supposed to represent the perils of scientific discovery, of scientific capacity, possibility...

I don't know. I mean I think it brings up also what's the relationship that, and of course there's been a lot of analysis, Freudian type analysis that have been made about the relationship Nathaniel has with his father. It's interesting that it is a very bizarre one because then certainly he's afraid but then at the same time when he's dead there's a change in the way he looks after he's been burned from this explosion. So and then there's the idea of the glasses and when he puts them on from the professor and what does he see, what does he no longer see anymore.

Yes, thank you for bringing it up, because I think you opened up another of Pandora's Box. What is the author trying to, you know all the different elements and symbols and themes that the author is using to address, I think at the end of the day your question. Peter's point is correct I mean in the text it is [inaudible foreign language] so it is very specifically referenced, it is. And of course Gerta and others, there was a fascination with science, natural science and so on.

That was the alarm so it is now noon eastern time. Okay so I know we can go on. We can have the whole six weeks to talk about this story but let's move on. But before we do, just one little thing I see in the chat here, "Interesting to me that men felt they couldn't determine which women were real as opposed to Olimpia's passive yet cultured demeanor.

Seems social common relation", oh yes of course, this story is certainly an analysis of social norms at the time. Expectations about how women should act, should not act, how men should act towards women, and not and so forth. Most certainly.

Again, interesting that as a male writer, the robot that is created is female. Because now as we switch on to Mary Shelley, we have a very different concept now. And as a female writer, we have a different, a whole different world. So let me do a quick introduction just real quick.

I didn't go through it, but for those of you who are interested in the many representations have been done of this particular story, but those of you in the musical classical world. So Jacques Offenbach actually did the Opera of Contes, Les Contes d'Hoffmann. So the stories, the short stories of Hoffmann, he actually has three. He makes off of three. And so what I'll do is I'll share this link. It's a section from the opera in which it shows Olimpia performing in the ball dance.

So I will share this link and [inaudible 00:20:19] considering time right now, it won't go through, but I will share it with you guys. So you can see sort of also, how did you imagine this Olimpia character? I mean, certainly Hoffmann describes her, but what was she wearing? How does she really move? How did she really sing? And so on also one sort of tragic note with respect to Offenbach, he actually, so he finished writing his opera in 1880. It was premiered in Paris in February of 1881, literally four months, right after, Offenbach died. And he had really wanted to see his [foreign language 00:20:56] right.

His work being performed. And he unfortunately didn't, but it's just an interesting tidbit here. So again, I'll share the link here that I have with you guys in a following email after class. Okay. So Mary Shelley, this is just a screenshot from one of the books, the illustrations that have been done for many publication versions of this story.

The author. So here, Mary, now we're going to the UK traveling to the UK right now. So Mary Shelley, so this book was actually...

The story was published in 1818. She published it anonymously. She later published it with her name in 1823 and then re-published in 1831 with revisions and actually as an homage, as a tribute to her husband who drowned in 1822.

And it's interesting because the very story of Frankenstein in terms of going from sign to the discovery to victimization, it's interesting that in her own life, there would almost be a reflection of what she had written in fiction who happened in non-fictions. She's the daughter of William Godwin, a very well-renowned political philosopher and Mary Wollstonecraft, another amazing and wonderful philosopher and feminist. She married the romantic poet and philosopher Percy Shelley at a very young age. I mention this simply because what this shows us is that we have a very cultured writer in Mary Shelley. She knew much about the world, multiple languages. She was a quite an avid reader and with philosopher parents.

I mean, you can just imagine the, well unfortunately her mother died. I think it was actually during birth or very soon after Mary Shelley's birth, but her father, I mean she learned from her father and from the huge amount of books that were made available to her. So she's mainly known for Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus and for just quick sort of who's Prometheus, another term, a word label for the forethinker. So this comes from Greek mythology. So he's known as being a trickster as the God of Fire.

He's basically credited as a hero for creating humans from clay. So again, this idea of going from inanimate objects to animacy and defying gods by stealing fire and returning it to earth and humanity. And the idea is that by doing that, progress in civilization can happen.

This little screenshot here is just of of a statue. If you have been to New York City, this is right in front of the Rockefeller Center. So that is Prometheus. And so within a Western classical tradition, the idea is that this character, this individual, embodies the concept of the genius who attempts to improve humanity also, by definition, will bring upon tragedy. So that is the core concept in which Mary Shelley is inspired by, dealing with.

So she is certainly inspired by her own, as I said, her own parents' writings and work. Apparently she drew upon nightmares she had in writing this story. What happens here, so in reading letters of hers where she describes the writing, the creation of the story. So the way it was created was that in 1816, she was actually in a sort of retreat, I guess you can call it, hanging out with friends in Geneva, in Switzerland. And she happened to be with poet Lord Byron, the physician Dr. John Polidori, poet, her husband Percy Shelley, and Mary Goodwin.

And so these are... The idea here that I want to put is that all of these individuals were advocates of romanticism. And so what I mean by romanticism here is we're talking about a type of inspiration and thinking of the world in term, really one with nature and understanding what the passions are and the desires are and experiences of the individual again, versus the concepts of science and enlightenment's conflicts of reason and objectivity.

And in reading through Mary Shelley's letters, she actually was, she knew what was happening scientifically at the time. And she actually thought, she literally said, "perhaps a corpse would be re-animated; galvanism had given token of such things; perhaps the component parts of a creature might be manufactured, brought together and endued with vital warmth." Which is exactly what she ends up doing with her story, right? And so it turns out that in this retreat, they all decided to write a horror story. They sort of, I guess if you consider it, they kind of thought of it as a game.

They were like, okay everybody write a horror story and we'll share our ideas later. And it turns out that Shelley did have a nightmare during one of the nights at that retreat in Geneva, and it was the following, and she actually talks about it in her letters. And she says, "I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together.

I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life and stir with an uneasy half-vital motion." Exactly what she ended up creating with her scientist and Dr. Frankenstein reading his exact version of that. So just so you know, also very successful within this group, Polidori's story was actually later published in 1819 known as The Vampire, which would be the precursor to Stoker's Dracula in 1897. So she wasn't the only one who had the, who came out with the most amazing story. So currently scientifically referring to galvanism, right.

So this comes from Luigi Galvani, the Italian scientist. So 1770s galvanism came about, the understanding of it. So that was the idea of muscle convulsions through electrical charges.

So the verb, right, galvanize means to stimulate to action. In 1803 Giovanni Aldino who happened to be a disciple of a Galvani. They actually demonstrate it. And that screenshot here actually comes from the illustrations from one of the publications. They've demonstrated the technique on the body of an executed criminal in London.

And they also created an experiment, which is where came the theory of Galvani's theory coming from here, this print from the original, from 1791 publication, which they connected a dead frog, it says dead front, a dead frog connected to a lightning rod. And so the idea was that they created this idea or concept called animal electricity theory. So basically the concept that animals generate electricity and they use this electricity to make their body moves.

And so this becomes then related and has an effect in our understanding of human physiology. And so more and more, we were no longer thinking about, here again, so we have the enlightenment. And so we're no longer thinking about human capacity or movement as a supernatural things or divine concepts, but more as a concepts of physics of mathematics and of logic. Certainly we haven't yet come into the cognition concept yet, but we certainly are thinking more in mechanical physical terms. And so this is, Mary Shelley, is perfectly aware of this. And so her story then becomes a reflection, I think of such.

And so, okay. I had you read certain parts of the story, the whole story, if you haven't read it, please do. I think it's fascinating. And as really at the time, I don't think Mary Shelley thought she was creating science fiction. She was probably thinking she was in, it's still in the gothic worlds, fantastical world, but she is considered probably the pioneer of science fiction simply because she's using current scientific concepts and methods and ideas to influence her character. And so these are just some points I'm going to bring out here.

So the pains and joys of scientific discovery, which I had you read very specifically as I wanted to bring that out of what does it mean to be the scientist? What is our role as human beings, but especially scientists in creating other beings? And I bring this up because this is going to become really important for the Japanese story we're going to read in which questions and issues of genetic engineering. And of course today with CRISPR technology we really are in this moment where we can do this, but this is something she's already bringing up. And then of course Frankenstein's stages of development, actually, chapters that I had you read 11, 12 and 13 specifically. So the four or five were really about this scientific searching and he talks about, or Shelley describes her main character really going through the toils of really wanting to understand life, death, the body, physiology. How does it come about? And why does it come about? And he goes through many hours and days and months of labor and sweat and tears and pale and sickliness. And so I felt that very as myself, a scientist, I understand those moments where you're really looking for that, searching for that moment of truth.

And you're just toiling away trying different experiments and more experiments. It can get exhausting, but then it's joyful and you're like, ah I have some data, I have some results. And so in the case of Frankenstein, for him it's not so much of a joy, right? As soon as he creates his being, he's actually terrified by his own creation. And then the chapters 11, 12, and 13, the reason why I had you guys read that is because in stark contrast to Hoffmann, so they're actually writing around the same time, right? Early 1800s. And we have Hoffmann, which I had mentioned his background, and we have Mary Shelley who was very much a philosopher and quite the intellectual in that sense. And because certainly Hoffman is an intellectual as well, but they create very different vastly different characters.

We have the male writer who creates the female witless robot, and we have the female writer who creates a very interesting, conscious being. And the reason why I had you guys focus on 11, 12 and 13 is because, and now I don't know if Shelley was aware of this, but she quite beautifully, I think, goes through the developmental stages of a human being through her character. And so I just wanted to highlight, I literally just wrote this and again, I'm going to share the slides with you guys, but she starts almost with what happens in infancy, right? Where everything is just about reflexes.

And I don't know if you know this, but actually when we're born, our vision is not yet perfect, right? We don't have adult vision until one years old, basically. And the way she describes her creation, well Frankenstein's creation, in terms of things being for the first time, feelings, sensations, light, sort of not understanding what objects are. And she's slowly progresses up. And I kind of wrote the list here.

So multiplicity of senses, feelings, seeing, hearing, smelling, just overwhelming visual stimulation, then being thirsty and hungry, then feeling cold then starts to now start to understand forms and objects [inaudible 00:33:19] animals, starts to imitate bird songs. So think about when we're infants or if you have an infant that you are living with, you know that they start to imitate sounds, right, and babbling, inarticulate sounds. Then there's the experience of pain, so right.

The monster creation here starts to understand heat from fire, pain, experimenting with food, disliking some. He dislikes the wine, but he likes the cheese, right. The milk. Then he starts to understand love and affection. So these are complex emotions, starts to learn words.

And there's even a description of when he's like, oh that's the word for father, brother, sister. Then there's awareness of his own physical deformity. Then there's knowledge of beauty, right? So then he sees this family in the cottage, right. And then of course, when a stranger or a foreigner comes in, he's like, oh wow.

There's something so beautiful about this individual. Oh, they speak another language. So understanding that other people speak different languages from your own. Then his own language improves. So the monster's quote-unquote here, "own language improves, starts to imitate, starts to comprehend."

And then finally at the end of that chapter 13, I think we get to the classic je pense donc je suis, I think therefore I am, right. So what was I? And that's beautiful, I think just the sort of wonderful description of how we cognitively develop from infancy to adulthood. So I find fascinating that the creation that Mary Shelley would create would be a very human-like creation, while the creation that Hoffmann create would remain just this mechanical thing. Real quick, I just wanted to put some slides here from Vision Science. So you realize that our newborn, this is how we...

So it's really by one year, how our vision works and we start, we don't have 3D vision yet when we're born, we develop it by the time we're six, three months old, four months old, we have 3D capacity of vision. And so you can see that that can affect then how we start understanding our relationship with objects. Another thing I wanted to mention with respect to language development, again, I'm bringing this up because is going to be crucial to understanding how we're developing robotic systems today. So when I talk about the fifties to today, so we have this interesting phase of from birth, we're crying and then we start cooing. Then there's the babbling and the gurgling.

And very interestingly we know from linguistic research that our babbling actually mimics the phonetic and up and down contours of the native language we're learning. And then we enter into one word utterances, right? And then two word utterances. And then we finally kind of get to what we call telegraphic stage when we start expanding our syntax and our vocabulary by two and a half years old. So by three, three and a half, four years old, we have pretty much full on adult language capacity. Exactly what Frankenstein, right, his creation goes through.

And one last element I wanted to enter here is we think back to Jean Piaget, the Swiss psychologist who ended up creating a set of stages of cognitive development and really understanding the human concept of mental representation, cognition, really how we go from understanding the world in sort of basic elements to really having abstract, moral reasoning and abstract logic and how we go from egocentric phases and we exit that phase. So everything egocentric is meaning me, me, me, right? So that's why the infant wants, thinks that the world revolves around themselves. And then finally, around three years old, you're like, oh other people can actually have ideas and emotions and feelings that are the same or different from myself. And that would be called theory of mind.

So I find fascinating as someone who's a scientist, a cognitive scientist, that Mary Shelley would go through all of this, maybe unknowingly, I don't know. But I just wanted to bring that up because I think that will be fundamental to what we will discuss with the next story. So let me open it up to you guys.

Comments, questions? [Professor, there's a couple in the chat, I can share my screen for the ones I've been copying if that works?] Yes, please do. [So those were the three questions that came through in the chat or comments.] Okay, so why are these early stories all Italian? If we think about robots, in the western world certainly everybody goes back to Leonardo DaVinci, pretty much in that sense.

We have a lot of foundational physiological work happening in Italy. So, certainly the concepts of physiology and the robotic innovation that DaVinci did and then further from that we could probably see that we have that influence coming from there. [I think Victor Frank also started by reading alchemic text too.] Yes, so he's a scientist. Again so Shelley and Hoffmann are writing around the same time and so the debates and questions about what is science, what is rationality, rather what is objectivity versus subjectivity is common.

So indeed, Frankenstein is also going to be in a similar fashion also addressing these questions of alchemy as a science. Many people at the time didn't think it was a science. So kind of as chemistry you can think of it.

And then we have: [How did his self-awareness emerge? Was it because his brain was pre-programmed fast? Or did it undergo some sort of self-organizing (inaudible)?] So, I think the way the self-awareness emerged and it's described in the text where there's a lot of observation by the monster, the creation. [Inaudible due to freezing] ... learning, trying things out so much in the way we human beings come to this concept of self-awareness and come to understand that other individuals, other human beings are like us, are different from us, have different concepts, different ideas, different emotions, different passions, different desires.

Now we're approaching the question of nurture nature. I don't think Shelley was thinking directly about that, perhaps she was. I mean again she's certainly aware of all the works of the enlightenment, the mind, body question and the Descartes question, the I think therefore I am so yes, she's probably aware of all of this. This brings up, you know is she thinking perhaps we come to the world endowed with some of this and for some reason, Frankenstein was able to create this specific consciousness in his creation. Who knows? Yes, so there's that question.

Then there's the issue of how much of learning is required in order to acquire this ability of understanding the world and understanding self. So, we're now opening the next Pandora's Box of the nurture nature question, right? How much of it is due to genetics and the history of evolution as to how our mind brain developed throughout millennia and how much of it is dependent on exposure to our environment? We do know from linguistic studies that individuals, there are certain case studies of individuals who were deprived of human language interaction. There's certainly also the famous example of [foreign language] the wild child, who of a case in I think it's Aveyron, France, in which a child literally grew up since birth, in the wild and so certainly did not have human interaction and when scientists tried to teach this child human language, the child is not capable really of reaching full human capacity of language production comprehension.

So, this goes to show that while the human being comes to the world, so here's the innate aspect, has the capacity to learn language, you need to be exposed to it, you need nurture. So, I think coming back to the Frankenstein question, well, Shelley actually does talk about that. Where she creates the situation, the narrative context for which, the "monster" here in quotes the creation, is observing other human beings.

She's taking into account probably then therefore, very well may be aware of nurture versus nature arguments are starting to come about. Although that would be more an issue of the late 1800's, 1900's but who knows, maybe she's also pre-dating this. So, any more questions or comments? [I thought it was very interesting in the Sandman, how Nathaniel's perspective of the women he was interacting with in this case Clara and Ophelia, were basically he was looking for a reflection of himself within them, I found. And whether or not they reflected his perspectives and his feelings and thoughts it was his determination of how human they were or how compassionate they were.

This was expressed most specifically in that moment where Clara responds to his dark text and he jumps and he responds and says, you damned wifeless automaton, responding to Clara in her cold reception of his poem.] Yup, and yet when Olympia's like oh, oh, oh... [You must find everything I say to be so profound.

Your speechless with.] Which is such a stark contrast my gosh with Mary Shelley's creation that's why I like to pair these two together, because I don't know I find that interesting that. Well, of course it really goes to show the importance of having diversity of opinion, right, of storytelling.

Really that's what it's telling us. I just love how it was the woman who came up with the amazingly human like creation, but maybe I'm biased right? So, any other questions, comments, reactions, ideas? [One last, one quick comment. I mean I think this whole question in the evolution of language and the experiences necessary for that to happen are interesting, but it's also the evolution of self too. I can self-emerge without having experiences with other people which I think gets us into interesting ideas about just how much of a self can a robot have but I do think the relationships between men and women were really a little strange.

And of course, we didn't read the part where the basic ending in the book is that Frankenstein decides, I mean excuse me the monster, the wonderfully rich emerging human character that happens to be galvanized by electricity wants a bride. I think that's a lovely kind of...] Yes, he wants Ms.Frankenstein right, he wants his partner, his partner in crime and life. Exactly. So, well that's interesting too because at the end of the day, even Shelley, much like Hoffmann, what is the central theme here in a way? Love - between two individuals, who cares really at this point whether inanimate, male, female, whatever, really, it's just love with another individual.

Like you say self-awareness, but also awareness of other. And so, that becomes the question of now prepping us for our next week, in terms of, is this possible when we create an entire computer world when we have the internet and when we have literally created an entire fleet of robots... because next week we're going to read Forster's the Machine Stops and Karl Kopec's RUR, Rossum's Universal Robots. So that again, is we're now going, pushing forward into the early 1900's now, so 1905-ish to 1920's. So, very different concept physically with the types of characters, and things and the world we're creating, but the central question of, what am I, what am I looking for, and empathy and really companionship the love question right? Before we close, it's about to be now the end of class, I'm just going to mention a comment here: [I think it's very interesting that Victor's Frankenstein isn't described as going through any type of scientific method but the creature does, calls what he's doing as feeling out the world and science.] Certainly, when Victor is going through all his science it's not very delineated in terms of the scientific method that he's going through.

Although, it's certainly assumed that yeah, he's going through all this experimentation and trying things. He goes through the anatomy and the physiology and the dead corpses and all of that. Yet, what this creature goes through in a way, he's feeling the world out, he really is in a very scientific way. Shelley is, who knows, did she do this consciously or subconsciously, I don't know. But given her smarts, probably consciously she was aware of what she was writing and certainly with her revisions later, and I'm going to leave that as a...

I'm not going to tell you how she revises the story. I think this will be something everybody should look up the revised story she later worked on. But it brings up the next question we will address next week of, well then what is the good or bad of science? And what is the ethical question the moral question? Alright, so we're now at the end of class, fantastic thank you all. Keep up the good work. Next set of stories coming up so like I said, short story by Forster and a theatrical play, it looks like a lot of pages but it runs very quickly so the dialogue moves so it's a quick read.

And we'll see what happens with our robot nation and our internet world. Okay, thank you, have a wonderful rest of the day or evening if you're going to go to bed now. Have a wonderful weekend and rest of the week and I'll certainly share a few extra links.

Okay, so thank you, goodbye!

2021-01-28 12:52

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