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The DefecatingDuck, or, the Ambiguous Originsof ArtificialLife
JessicaRiskin
My second Machine,or Automaton,is a Duck.... The Duck stretchesout its Neck to take Corn out of your Hand;it swallowsit, digestsit, and dischargesit digestedby the usual Passage.
-Jacques Vaucanson,letter to Abbe Desfontaines,17381

Squirtis the smallestrobot we havebuilt .... Its normal mode of operationis to act as a "bug,"hiding in darkcornersand venturingout in the directionof noises.
Don't PlayChess,"19902 -Rodney Brooks,"Elephants

An eighteenth-century mechanical duck that swallowed corn and grain and, after a pregnant pause, relieved itself of an authentic-looking burden was the improbable forebear of modern technologies designed to simulate animal and intelligent processes. Quaint as the Duck now seems, we remain in an age that it inaugurated;its mixed careerset in motion a dynamic that has characterizedthe subsequent history of artificiallife.3 JacquesVaucanson, the ambitious son of a Grenoble glove maker, put his defecating Duck on display in Parisin the winter of 1738in a rented hall, the grand salledesquatresaisonsat the Hotel de Longueville.Its companions were two android musicians, a Pipe-and-Tabor player and a Flute-player that had first appearedat the Foire St.-Germainthe previous February(fig. 1).4 The price of admission was a substantial three livres, about a week's
aremy own. Exceptwhereotherwiseindicated,all translations This essayand another,"Eighteenth-Century Wetware" no. 83 [Summer (Representations, life and intelligence,hence the 2003]) arepartsof a largerprojecton the earlyhistoryof artificial in each essayto the other. frequentreferences 1. Jacques "Letter to the AbbeDesfontaines" LeMecanisme Vaucanson, (1742[1738]), dufluteur trans.J.T.Desaguliers automate, abbreviated "L." (Buren,The Netherlands, 1979),p. 21;hereafter Thiseditionof Vaucanson's treatise includesboth the originalFrench versionandDesaguliers's translation. Forthe sakeof consistency, allpagenumbersreferto the English translation. English 2. RodneyA. Brooks,"Elephants Don't PlayChess,"Robotics andAutonomous 6 Systems
(1990): 9.

3. By artificial life,here and throughout,I mean all attemptsto understand livingprocessesby to the using machineryto simulatethem. Artificial Life,with capitalletters,will referspecifically research field that arosein the mid-twentiethcenturyin which computerscientists,engineers, and othershavetriedto use information-processing cognitiveand neuroscientists, machineryto simulatelivingprocesses,such as reproductionand sensation. 4. See AndreDoyon and LucienLiaigre, mecanicien degenie (Paris,1966), Vaucanson, Jacques pp. 33,61;hereafter abbreviated JV
CriticalInquiry29 (Summer2003) ? 2003 by The Universityof Chicago.0093-1896/03/2904-ooo5$10.oo. All rights reserved.

599

600

Jessica Riskin / Origins of Artificial Life

.... : _ . . ...... ....... Fi?.-.
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the Duck, and the Pipe-and-Tabor F I G U RE 1. The Flute-player, player.Fromthe produ automata,Vaucanson,LeMecanisme spectus of the 1738exhibitionof Vaucanson's Universityof California, fluteurautomate.WilliamAndrewsClarkMemorialLibrary, Los Angeles.

wages for a Parisian worker. Nevertheless the people poured in, earning Vaucanson in a single season severaltimes what he had borrowed to finance
JEss i CA Ri s KIN is an assistant professor of history at Stanford University.She is the author of Sciencein theAge of Sensibility:The SentimentalEmpiricists of the FrenchEnlightenment (2002) and is currentlyworking on a history of artificiallife and intelligence circa 1730-1950.

1928). Vaucanson.2:650-51.1847). Automata. (London. and what such reproductions might reveal about their natural subjects. (Paris.6 In the meantime in 1741.the automata helped Vaucansonto secure a much-coveted appointment to the ParisAcademy of Sciences as "associatedmechanician" in 1757(a contest in which he beat out Denis Diderot) (IV. In addition to making money. 5.Finally. In short.1877). Wetware.1-2."Automata and the Originsof Mechanismand MechanisticPhilosophy.. 142-45). and professional. 308.overcomingacademicians'habitualsuspicion ofcommercial projects.oujournald'unobservateur." 6.sensing he could do even better at home.Oeuvres M. advertisingVaucanson'sshow to his readership. But their value as amusements lay principally in their dramatization of a philosophical problem that preoccupied audiences of workers.1777depuis1762jusqu'anosjours. and Study.see MarieJeanAntoine Nicolas de Caritat. philosophers. Philibert Orry.and to what degree.5 His own monarch did in fact have anotherprojectin mind for him.1958)." had existed from antiquity. On ancientautomata. popular. see also Riskin. [LouisPetitde Bachaumont]. Their success lay in their author's transformation of an ancient art. It is doubtless the knowledge of the 10 vols. recruited Vaucanson to become Inspector of Silk Manufactures. On Vaucanson's 89). ed. 55-56. declined the offer.Memoires secrets de la Republique des pourservira l'histoire Lettres en France.. they were utter successes:entrepreneurial." Louis XV ultimatelysupportedVaucansonin a protractedeffortto do so (see JV. by the dilation and contraction of the muscles.chaps. in the same way as in living man. (Paris. Derekde SollaPrice. (Paris. 36 vols.1-4.but as amusements and feats of technological virtuosity." "Eightenth-Century 7.described the insides of the Flute-playeras containing an "infinityof wires and steel chains.the king's finance minister.vol.Arago. [which] form the movement of the fingers. and kings: the problem of whether human and animal functions were essentiallymechanical. 30-34). historique Automata: A Historical and Technical trans.12vols. his automata were also commercial ventures intended to entertain and demonstrate mechanical ingenuity. pp. 1. Chapuisand EdmondDroz.who celebratedtheir inventoras "Prometheus's rival"and persuaded Frederickthe Greatto invite their maker to join his court. Marquisde 9:420. 23:307.ForFrederick de Condorcet. . A. "self-moving machines.7Vaucanson's automata were philosophical experiments. see also pp."Discoursen verssur l'homme"(1738). CondorcetO'Connorand Condorcet. philosophical. 133-35. F. hereafter abbreviated "EV.LeMondedesautomates: Etude 2 vols.Oeuvres completes.see AlfredChapuisand EdouardGelis. the three automata capturedthe fancy of Voltaire. chaps. pp. projectto simulatethe circulationof the blood. wondering if he could "executein this manner the circulationof the blood." and Culture Technology 5 (Winter1964):9-23. p. attempts to discern which aspectsof living creatures could be reproduced in machinery."Elogede Vaucanson" (1782). The Abbe Desfontaines.151-61). Voltaire.Critical Inquiry / Summer 2003 6oi the project (see IV.141. et technique. Of course. the Great's invitation.Alec Reid (New York.

" inventions present.see Riskin. to man in all the internalparts"("LeMechanismedu fluteur with great"resemblance respiration see ThomasL. (Paris.but by no meansto reproduce its physiology.this artificial Reyselius.1644). the owl as and silent. avecquelques 9."Lettre The reviewof surlesecritsmoderne. Gallon.165o-1665. still become Then. that guidedthe authorin his mechanics" JV.1738. tomata. SeeAbbe Desfontaines.Silverman.1735-43)." 104..On the artificial and theImagination Instruments (Princeton. dessfavansalso emphasizedthe role of in the Journal treatiseon the Flute-player Vaucanson's in informingthe android's anatomicaland physicalresearch design. 117-18. a groupof birds.et un discours and plate13.thebirds andchirping. RoyaledesSciences depuisson etablissementjusqu'a par l'Academie approuvies I havefound one possible ed. was contained of to the ParisAcademy An artificial was purelyexternal.N. man of Reyselius. See Isaacde Caus. The term is from Laurens Laudan.presented mechanism contained its mechanician named in a Sciences 1733 Maillard.and Accordingto reports. to simulative and JV.Inthiscase.evenin caseswherethe mechanism andthe imitative figures which it playedno partin the imitation.1995).Observations 12:340. Hankinsand RobertJ.. (Paris. in processand substance as externally.1735-77). pivotsaway. . from mechanistreduction.This is a "statue" man demonstrated circulation. 1:133-35.602 Riskin / Originsof ArtificialLife Jessica (quotedin anatomyof man . 182."30 8." automata. 34vols. But. by insideitself(fig. swan.the distance allon top.p. withinthe figures. the distancebetweenthe mechas in a musicbox."TheClockMetaphorand Probabilism: 22 (June1966):73Annalsof Science Descarteson EnglishMethodological Thought. aswell wereimitative automata internally century.10 the behavior of a natural to represent swan.1739): fluteurautomate. andordered Themotionsaredrivenby a waterwheel by a peggedcylinder."Journal 441. M. 51).allfluttering thebirdsperkup again.pp. did not try to reproduce exceptionto the generalrulethat automatonmakersbeforeVaucanson physiciannamed designedin the 167osby a Wiirttemburg livingprocesses.9 An owl slowlypivotstoward engineer by the French Asthe owlfacesthem. Theswanpaddled throughthewateron a paddlewheel Itwasintended whilea set of gearssweptits headslowlyfromsideto side. dualism. et in Machines machinesinventeesparM..which had exemptedconsciousness for an infinity of possible allowed which had and "hypotheticalism.J. 25 machines par le moyende l'eau.Nouvelleinventionde leverl'eauplus haultquesa source de la conduitd'icelle mouvantes (London. The designdramatizes auand earlyeighteenth-century anismand the imitationin seventeenthis allsubterranean themechanism is literal.8 is apparent to automaton-making Thenoveltyin Vaucanson's approach automaton an for betweenhis machinesand a 1644design in the contrast Isaacde Caus(fig.p. avecleurdescription. dessavants[1677]: automate. Fora fullerdiscussionof the shift from representative Wetware. See "Diverses Cygneartificiel. Maillard: 10." Journal 352).digestion. nature's mechanisms gavewayto anemergent underlying CLXXX sur le fluteurautomateet l'aristipe modeme.162-63."Eighteenth-Century The Impactof 11.7 vols.2).3). p."1l visiblebehaviors. Mar. Bythe lateeighteenth Cartesian as well as in appearance.See "LeMechanismedu dessfavans(Apr.

. . ... . FIGURE .. Nouvelle invention. xiii~:. the Deatmn invention~.. .- 2..~'E 'i :':"1 .hetnngoladiniiae ..'. ...~.r ..... Cu's.~&...Iaa:d G U.'.~? .. '.4-". : ~.''J .:-.-~~..?~. ' ~~ ..:..~ ~ .... ~~?. . F ...~ -...::. ?.~.:~. .J ..'.j..J?43h..... ... ' .i .. ~ ..:'~l~i:~ i. ?3LI..' E.R I~~~~~.':'.. StanfordUniversityLibraries.. 2.... FomIsaac de: Cau..1... Courtesy of the Department of Special Collections. . ...SafrdUiesti plat braries~~~... W t?' . 47 :.plate xiii... Isaac de Caus'sthreateningowl and intimidatedbirds..'.~ '. i:..~i' ' ' '. From Isaacde Caus.... ~': "' ...~ . - ' ..Nouell ofSeilClecin.~di-"'. Corts of.:'... .' .' >.'~ ?~ ... birds.

' . materialism and to a growing confidence.i W *[. i i . that experimentation could reveal nature'sactual design. Thus the hands of three automata built by a Swiss clock-making family named Jaquet-Droz in 1774 were probably designed with the help of the .. not only to mimic the outward manifestations of life.* *-' :. ? '1"- F I G U R E 3. The designers now strove. . . i i-w -?..604 Jessica Riskin / Originsof ArtificialLife .*^ ^ ^ ':r ' ' ' .I * f .. ... '/ 1 .I //. 7 vols." Machines. derived from ever-improvinginstruments.. . 1:133-35.1735Courtesyof Departmentof SpecialCollections. . These developments brought a new literalism to automata and a deepening of the project. but also to follow as closely as possible the mechanisms that produced these manifestations.FromGallon. :.StanfordUniversityLibraries."Cygneartificiel. Maillard's artificialSwan.. i /''i. ' . . 77). S". (Paris. .5L " "'" ' ' "" t . '//I/..

" Culture 17(1987): Century 95. 14.Simulation in its eighteenth-century and had a negative usagemeant "artifice" . 31-34. when mechanical musical devices began to incorporate pinned barrels.New York.see ReedBenhamou. through the addition of electric motors in the earlytwentieth century.1916)." theAges.see SylvioA. 13. On the adventof the pinned cylinderin the late sixteenthcentury.Critical Inquiry / Summer2003 605 FI GURE 4. village surgeon. I intend the word simulationin its modernsense. "TheRole of Automatain the Historyof Technology. (1962-68.human hands (fig.p.but of simulation. 79).LesJaquet-Droz (Neuchatel. 4). Daumas.ed. not just of representation."Industrial in A Historyof Technology and Invention: Mechanization." and Culture Technology 5 (Winter1964):35.trans.14 12.12 During the century that separatedthe Jaquet-Drozautomata from de Caus's birds. See CharlesPerregaux and F. FromAlfredChapuis and Edmond Droz. the array of technological devices available to automatonmakers did not change significantly.pp. Automata.In fact this arrayremained fairlyconstant from the late sixteenth century.1969Progress through On the continuityin automatatechnologybefore electronics. and MauriceDaumas.which originatedaroundthe middleof the twentiethcentury.13But the way in which these mechanisms were deployed did change importantly: the design of automata became increasingly a matter. The simulativehandofthe Jaquet-Droz family's1774 Lady-musician. "FromCuriositeto Utilite:The Automatonin Eighteenth-Century Studiesin EighteenthFrance. 282.EileenHennessy. Bedini.to mean an experimental model from which one can discoverpropertiesof the naturalsubject. 3:178-79. their skeletalstructuresmodeled on real.-Louis et Leschot Perrot.3 vols.

see JV.15 The Jaquet-Droz family were also innovators in this regard. could one build a circulatory system that worked like natural ones without using an elastic material for the veins? So Vaucanson incorporated into his plans for a "moving anatomy" an exotic new material: rubber. ed. Discovery Social. as we will see."Eighteenth-Century . 18. not merely for verisimilitude.Mrs.JV.LesAutomates 15. the Duck with Feathers. and DavidM. had rather have seen .in Scientific trans. not only did their machines bleed and defecate. (1956): Historical and Mrs. and papier-mache to give their machines the softness." originatedin the mid-eighteenthcentury. C. llo. Technology and Linda ElianeMaingot." "TheMotivesof Jacques 257-69. See "EV.606 Jessica Riskin / Originsof Artificial Life This new. see also pp. On eighteenth-centuryautomaton designers'interestin lifelikematerialsand textures.p."his "Design [had been] ratherto demonstrate connotation. Fryerand JohnC.1959). 18. and Popular of Science." and Technical Conditionsfor Studiesin theIntellectual. its material aspect.J. pp.pp.pp.A.and Vaucanson made the imitation of internal process explicitly central to his project.. and pliancy of living things." (Paris. diss. It produced the most organic of matters. 71-72."TheRole of Analogiesand Modelsin Biological 292-335. GeorgesCanguilhem." Liaigre.1979): and Culture Vaucanson.34.see Doyon and argumentsthatVaucanson's 10 Dialectica "M(thodologiecompareedu biomecanismeet de la mecaniquecomparee. and the Originsof the MechanisticPhilosophy". they also breathed. D.. 1987)." Riskin. lightness. who only like the Outside of Animals. fromAntiquityto thePresent.using lifelike materials such as leather.see Riskin. introductionof the phrase"movinganatomy"("anatomiemouvante")to describemechanical models. 510-12. A Studyin the Interface MarleneStrauss.(I am gratefulto EvelynFox Kellerfor pressingme to clarifymy use to automata. physiological 16. 5). How.I in reference uses of simulation of the term. Universityof California."Automata: SanDiego.Foran analysisof the meaningand implicationsof simulationand an argumentthat the projectof simulatinglife For Wetware."Eighteenth-Century automataweresimulativein the modernsense. but also the matter of life. 2:655. Indeed. but for simulation.p. Z.) I havenot found eighteenth-century and his contemporaries' becauseit describesVaucanson's employit here despitethe anachronism to automataand in orderto suggestthat theirworkhad a pivotal approach newlyexperimental placein the historyof attemptsto simulate(in its modernsense) life processes. Gardiner Change: Discovery.ForVaucanson's Culture"(Ph. they hoped to make the parts of their machines work as much as possible like the parts of living things and thereby to test the limits of resemblance between synthetic and naturallife.implyingfakery.see Wetware. the two were inseparablein the eyes of eighteenth-century designers of simulative machines. for example.1961). A.16 Vaucanson'sDuck markedthe turning point in these developments (fig. Kitchin. By imitating the stuff of life. He boasted that the Duck was transparent-its gilded copper feathers were perforated to allow an inside view-and wrote wittily that although "some Ladies.and Technical Scientific Price. Invention. cork. automaton makers were once again aiming. Crombie(NewYork. but.Technology. simulative impulse embraced. Eighteenth-centurymechanicians also produced devices that emitted various lifelike substances.. "Automata 20 (Jan. not only the mechanisms underlying living processes.G. 118-19. or some People. Marshall.

..:.<. ..."From Chapuisand Droz.:..t... 233-38. ~ :f.....q . .I ......: |... . ...-e . :: U' ? ~i... "Picturesof Vaucanson'sDuck receivedfrom Dresden.~~~~~:..s' i .pp.: .:.:..."':.:.. ... :s :':!: i:':: :'. ...s>..Jb1 z:^ e ..4 A....::.... t si i .Z:... .....~"' ._ :.. ":(::z:. Automata..^. :::" :.: ?":':~..'-..:..... *~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~: S. F I G U R E 5.. "''/-R ' ' :: :1~: :~ . i ..The photographswere in a folderleft by his predecessor...:: ':..:....>eS.'''::... e.. .. One of a mysteriousset of photographsdiscoveredaround 1950by the curatorof the labeled Musee des Artset Metiersin Paris....

and moving its wings. An arrowhelpfullyindicateswhere the main action takesplace.17 Most impressively. 22)."pp.From 2:151. stretching and bending its neck.LeMondedesautomates. Cams in the upper cylinder activated a frame of about thirty levers. The Duck was powered by a weight wrapped around a lower cylinder. playing "in the Waterwith his Bill. and Chapuisand Droz. .Automata. Y F I G U R E 6. tail. A nineteenth-centuryinventor'sillustrationof his own imaginedversion of a mechanicaldigestingduck. . Chapuisand EdouardGelis. than to shew a Machine" ("L. after a moment.which drove a larger cylinder above it."the food digested "asin realAnimals. excreted them in an altered form (fig. the Manner of the Actions.the Duck ate bits of corn and grain and. and mak[ing] a gurgling Noise like a real living Duck" ("L. which included drinking. LeMondedes automates."p. 22-23. pp. lying down. 23) as well as rising up on its feet. These were connected with different parts of the Duck's skeletalsystem to determine its repertoireof movements. 233-42. 2:149-51. Vaucanson said these processes were "copied from Nature. 6). and even its larger feathers.608 JessicaRiskin / Originsof ArtificialLife 1 /_ I. by 17. See Chapuisand G6lis.

partlymechanical partly andpartlyingeniously Consider thepointsof emphatransparent opaque? sis in Vaucanson's He is carefulto saythathe wantsto show." p. But this.2 VOlS. All the Duck'smovements(exceptthe one just menstudiesof natural ducks.. PP."he added. physiological simulation was."I shafll. Eachwingcontained overfourhundredarticulated pieces." and Godefroy-Christophe Bereis. Thepartially fraudulent Duck judgmentof the boundaries 1 travers 18.letterdated2 Nov. and theEclipse ArtfulScience: EnlightenmentEntertainment of VisualEducation Mass. By claimingthathis Duck digestedby dissolution."Idon't pretendto givethis as a perfectDigestion.Automata.a closeobserver (JV.Thenin 1783.and Chapuisand Droz..then. partlygenuine. Chronique l'Allemagne 1:284. while repairingthe Duck'smechanism. 1785. 2:151-52.CriticalInquiry / Summer. .is the meaningof this hybridanimal. Automata.. PP..see IV..see may or may not havebeen fromVaucanson's LeMondedesautomates.Lascelles Wraxall(i858..'9 tioned)weremodeledupon exhaustive What. See Friedrich et la Suisse. and Barbara 404 n.imitating everybumpon everybone of a naturalwing. 17.SeeJeanEug~neRobert-Houdin. see also pp.Vaucanson was intenton making his Duckstrictlysimulative. (Cambridge. Nicolai.2003 609 Dissolution. Yet.New York. not just a machine.104-7. exceptwhereit wasnot. shew . 125-29. 21).. The deceptively feathers not hid. swallowing mechanismuncoveredan even greaterdeceit:the food did not continue down the neck and into the stomachbut ratherstayedat the base of the mouth tube. 193-94.fraudulent. [on] another Occasion" ("L. 248.this centralfraudwassurroundedby plentyof genuineimitation. 14. description. Vaucanson entereda debateamongphysiologists overwhetherdigestion was a chemicalor a mechanical his postponement process.1999). trans. The magicianand automatonmakerJeanEug~neRobert-Houdinclaimedto havemadethe same discoveryin 1845.But he is equallycareful to saythatthis is a process only partialimitation. 479). (Berlin.He wrote. in generaland its discovery.1783). justa trick. Memoirsof Robert-Houdin. 19. On this question. this observer output were entirelyunrelated and that the tail end of the Duckmust be loaded 18 TheDuckthatpioneered beforeeachactwith fakeexcrement. 234. Chapuisand Gd1is. The parts Robert-Houdinrepaired Duck. P.. Reasoning that digestingthe food by dissolution wouldtake than the brief the Duck took between andexpullonger pause swallowing concludedthat the graininput and excrement sion. 233-38 and n.quoted in Chapuisand Droz..but a process. I hopeno bodywouldbe so unkindasto upbraid me with pretending to anysuchThing"("L.. Already in 1755a critic accusedthe Duck of being "nothingmore than a coffeeof theDuck's grinder" P. pp.Unfortunately of furtherexplanations to "canother occasion" aroused suspicions. On the Duck'sfraudulence MariaStafford.. at its core. pp.but an implicit transparent of mechanism. 22). 1964). See "L." p.partlyfraudulent and and partly(ostensibly) chemical.

"22 expressed.ToyMedium: ModernLyric 2000)."21 work dramatized the DanielCottom. 183).betweenthe animateand the inanimate. "TheWorkof Art in the Age of Mechanical Digestion. of artand shit as the productsof mechanical the equivalence prostrating of each. LivingDolls: Life(London. de Vaucanson's a wayotherthanthose he couldimitate" ("EV. 2002).Fora thirdexample. approach developed were neitherin a contextin whichmechanisttheoriesof bodilyprocesses in a Mechanical Mirror: Automataas Doubles and as 20.In other to distinguish to havebeen ofVaucanson's automata I find the most feature words.see DanielTiffany. 22. xvi. betweensuchconvictionandits mechanist conviction. firstwashis interestin reproducing Andthe second. GabyWood."Representations.. complexculturalrole of doublesor doppelgangers" A MagicalHistoryof theQuestforMechanical 21. the creatures that producedthem from machines.one of the central betweenart and problemsof aestheticjudgmentmust be to distinguish not It seemsto me.who argues that Vaucanson's similarly reduction of bothlife (in the Duck)andart(in the Flute-player) mechanist "Inan ageof mechanical to bodilyprocesses: digestion. in which the authorascribesto automata"the Tools." 2:648).The encapsulated perfectly innerprocess. Bybuilding ratherthan demonand placingthem alongsideeach other. Academy eulogy didnotbelievein thedigestive Condorcet buthewrote partof theimitation.wastestingthe capacity product. secretary in of of derived from the Duck his Vaucanson. no. p. and Materialism 66 (Spring1999):71. a machine thatplayed thefluteandanother antithesis. both the processof mechanical simulationand its boundary." thatwent "beyond She diagnosesa kind of "madness"in whatshe seesas his attempts to "[blur]the line betweenmanand Anotherexampleis machine. assumption in had limits. Thiswasexof the perpetual actlythe lessonthat the marquisde Condorcet. processes partialfraudulence. that the automata shit. The its mademanifest Duck.20 of an unbridleddevotionto mechanism. to designing his experimental Vaucanson automata. . faultif.no less washis organizing thatthe imitationof life'sinner important.Gaby emblematic Wood suggeststhat Vaucanson's mechanistambitions projectsexpressed the boundsof reason."Reflections and Society lo (1996):179-207.Forexample.2-3. Historians andothereighteenth-centuryautomwritingon Vaucanson's takenthem as straightforward renditionsof life in maata havegenerally and recent writershave continued to read the automataas chinery.610 Jessica Riskin / Originsof ArtificialLife the two defining novelties of Vaucanson's work. natureoperated herfunctionsin "itwasnot M.."Knowledge (p. chaps.Vaucanson. DanielCottom. (Berkeley. See for exampleStrauss. Sciences.but the tug-of-war thatshat. striking enactmentof both the samenessand the incomparatheir simultaneous bilityof life and machinery. on the contrary.the artistic andtheorganic cesses.

S. of nature. in NineteenthandMechanics German Lenoir. and on the developmentand influenceof Ren6Descartes's see TheodoreM.TheStrategy ofLife:Teleology Century Biology and the Historical-Genetic Methodin RomanticBiology" (Dordrecht. pp. Physiology. questionof whether epistemological was to understand mechanism the to take the philosophical rightapproach natureof life. Richards. Brown.23nor in one as in earlynineteenthin which such theorieswere largelydiscredited.51-82. (Chicago. deep-seated 23. Secord. Jackson." ed.1982) and "Morphotypes and L. but rather a ambivalence about mechthen. and PhillipR. mechanism. C. Julian "TheProblem LesModdesdu vivanrde Descartes e4 Jaynes. Jacyna. and consumersof the emergingpopularscienceindustryduringthe middledecadesof the eighteenth Neithermechanist nor antimecentury. 113-53.ThePhysical and the pp. Anthropology."Transcendental in Anatomy.2-3.1998)."Physiology and physiologyin particular. AndrewCunninghamand NicholasJardine Sciences." of NaturalKnowledge. PeterDear. Williams. (Cambridge. "Naturphilosophie of NaturalHistory." in Biologyand theFoundation ed."Descartes. pp. "The Jardine." Medicine Microcosm:BodilyPassions. and MylesW. 25. The rejectionof classicalmechanismin nineteenth-century See for exampleTimothy mostly in the context of Germanromanticismand Naturphilosophie. On the role of mechanismin seventeenth-centuryphysiology.3.leadingEnlightthe groundfor mechanist explanations prepare Buffonnonetheless dissuch as Diderotand Georges enmentmaterialists and vital tendencies such propertiesof explanations.PP." Journal of theHistoryofIdeas31 (Apr. of Ethics. 1990).161-68. academicians. pp."in Cultures Jardine.defied mechanistreduction. . ters.ed." Romanticism and theSciences. J.Science in theAgeof Sensibility: The underlyingunce'rtainties Sentimental Empiricists of theFrench Enlightenment (Chicago. 1996). 230-45. Spary(Cambridge.-Jun. chaps.24 but. invoking paraged The ontological matterthat. the MechanicalPhilosophyin Mid-Seventeenth-Century Bulletinof theHistoryof England.25 processeswere essentially questionof whethernaturaland physiological and the accompanying mechanistic.and E. StephenShapinand Christopher Duchesneau.as in mid. JaneMaienscheinand MichaelRuse (Cambridge. The Romantic processesoutside Germany. moment ofprofound anintervening during century biology. "'Metaphorical Mystifications': Gestationof Naturein BritishBiology"and PhilipF. philosophers. 175o-85o (Cambridge. of AnimateMotion in the SeventeenthCentury. 130-43. chap. 51 (1977): 25-54.instead. A. "Romantic in Romanticism and the Thoughtand the Originsof CellTheory.This uncerabout the validityof philosophical uncertainty of natural materialism the eighteenth-century taintyaccompanied rising Evenas their insistenceon the primacyof matterseemedto philosophy.and the Rejectionof Vitalismin 219-34. 98-112." of Science life scienceshas been treated 24. and RobertJ.and its and ambivalences.Rehbock. Sloan.i998). I treatthe mid-eighteenth-centuryturn againstphilosophicalmechanism. Stateand Natureof Unity and Freedom: GermanRomanticBiologyand Ethics.Good Manners."in Biologyand theFoundation of Ethics. Lawrence ed. Ethics. 1999). pp. Studiesin theHistoryand Philosophy 8(1977):1-28. chanistconviction.144-60. Seventeenth-Century Physiology. "Darwin's RomanticBiology:The Foundationof His Evolutionary 1994)."AMechanical in Science Incarnate: Historical Embodiments and Cartesian Mechanism. they argued.1970): the Sceptics. preoccupied minismonarchs. and the Kingdomsof Nature.to late seventeenth-century physiolog y. 119-29. Fran~ois Leibniz(Paris.CriticalInquiry / Summer2003 611 dominant. Elizabeth Moral: and Philosophi calMedicine in France.A. On late eighteenth-and nineteenth-century from the mechanistexplanationof living departures see EvelleenRichards.2002). in Riskin.

contingency chine able to talk. history on tificiallife has been the simpleunfoldingof a suprahistorical dialectic. only in the earlypartof the nineteenthcenturyand wereconspicuously absentfromthe conversation duringthe precedingperiod. esp." Lifeof Puppets and of the magicaland wondrouselementsof earlymodernautomata. fromthe Duck'sperformances arof Not that the in it life understand by reproducing machinery..see Stafford presentation in a Box to Imageson a Screen Fromthe World Devicesof Wonder: (LosAngeles. FrancesTerpak.I mean to treatthis aspectof the story the in the largerprojectfromwhich this essayis drawn. telligence tinually changingfield of questionsin fact dates back to the time of 26. 50. transand the scientific and thiscombination technological persists. werethe antithesis creatures threecenturies thatis continuingnearly a discussion the Duckto instigate later. drawpictures. moment. treatedhere:the shiftingtides of secularism life is that religiousobjectionsto simulatinglife arose.But one sort of culturaldevelopmentthat figuredcentrallyin the life duringthe eighteenthand nineteenthcenturiesis not directly changingfortunesof artificial An exampleof the changingroleof and religiosity. beliefsthatlifeis mechanism At eachsuccessive moment. consciousness. write. Fora see VictoriaNelson.learn? sense.as faras I religionin the historyof artificial havebeen ableto tell.the competing with scientific. makemusic.theinability heldmaterialist theoryof animal Insofaras to explainthe core phenomenonof animallife.2001). contradictory they andthatliving machines wereessentially claimsatonce:thatlivingcreatures allowed incoherence Itsmasterful of machines. . a historical the dialectic the contrary.Itscontradictory a withus:first. to producecontinually social. despite of we live in the age Vauof the last two and a half centuries.second. and culturaldevelopments26 changinghypothesesaboutthe line dividinglife fromnonlife.play chess. of such A succession havefeelings. widely andremains in the earlyeighteenth century emerged of thistheory lifeand. TheSecret (Cambridge. Examplesfollow.612 Jessica Riskin / Originsof ArtificialLife the contextfor the emergence anismand mechanist explanation provided such commanded Duckandits companions life. 2001). reason.On religiousattitudestoward"animating Mass.drivenattempts anism-has.express emotion. haveengaged and thatlife is nonmechanism technological. 35-47 and 266-74. inanimate. p.Thedefecating of artificial two dramatized because a such at moment. attention.Thusthe contradiction life hasbroughtabouta conspicuous at the heartof the projectof artificial Is it possibleto designa maof that in the basicterms project. pp. InArtificial Life and of Artificial the has motivated disciplines questions this conBut in the mid-twentieth fromtheirinception century. beliefin both propositions-that animallife is essenA simultaneous to mechandthatthe essenceof animallifeis irreducible tiallymechanistic to to this day.interact. formations canson.one in whichwe represents that froma combination derive convictions arestillliving.

ed.28 This meant that the Flute-playerwas not. SeeVaucanson. in tandemwiththe attemptto findwheremechanical would reproduction fail.triggering a frameof leversthat controlledthe Flute-player's fingers. lips.1751-72). as people at first believed it must be. It was said that one could even substitute another. The mechanism wasmovedby gardens to two sets of gears.as in anytaxonomy.windpipes. It played a realflute. 17vols. Asdesigners of artificial lifehavesoughtto explain living with mechanical theirunderstandings processes by analogy arrangements.with eachcategory defined. the mechanical performance Duckdramatized.In its apparent of the most animalof processes.as in the Duck. a music box with an autonomous mechanism inside and a purely decorativefigureoutside."that is. In short. as does the underlying they express.et desmetiers. has resultedin an ongoing taxonomicexercise. But the questionsalso identifyprecisely those caat a given momentto be the pacitiesof livingbeingsthat have appeared likeliest to defymechanistic reduction.or emote is to raisethe possibilitythat animaland human abilitiesare the sheerproductsof animal and humanmachinery.27The mechanized satyrwasthe firstexampleof whatDiderot's Encyclopediedefined as an "androide. the intelligent from the rote.The bottom set turnedan axlewith weightsattached cranks thatpowered threesetsof bellows. similar flute and the Flute-player 27. and tongue.CriticalInquiry / Summer2003 613 contradiction Vaucanson's Duck. the Flute-player a statueof a satyr Outwardly.leading into threewindpipes. and lips.converse. 28. Denis Diderotand d'Alembert. 1:448. (Paris. the organicfromthe mechanical. "AnAccountof the Mechanismof an Automatonor ImagePlayingthe GermanFlute"(1742). a human figure performing human functions. reproduced byAntoineCoysevoxentitledShepherd to the PlayingtheFlutethat stood in the entrance Tuillerie and is now at the Louvre.sortingthe animate fromthe inanimate. blowing airfrom its lungs and exercising soft.To askwhethera machinecan digest. of gearsturneda cylinder with cams.Vaucanson'sDuck and its companionslaunchedthis taxonomicdynamic. dufluteurautomate. Encyclopedie. .but it did similarly testthe limitsof mechanization of a processperformed a creature by living (fig.the projectsof artificial life havebeen attemptsto reachthe outerboundsof mechanism. 1o-20. The Flute-player did not involvedeception. "Androide" ou dictionnaire raisonne dessciences. The attemptto reproduce life in machinery.tongue. not justthe reducibility of animals to machines.7). givTheupperset lungsthreedifferent ingthe Flute-player's blowing-pressures. butalso the problemof wherethe machineendedand the animalbegan. flexible fingers. des (1751). Jeand'Alembert.LeMecanisme pp. crucially bywhat is excluded fromit. of life and of mechanism havealso developed in mutualopposition. arts.

81. Vaucanson. variouslyon the holes of the flute that varythe tones. "Onecan substituteanotherflute entirelyin the placeof the one he plays"(Charles surla courde LouisXV. Vau- canson studied human flute players in minute detail.614 Jessica Riskin / Origins of Artificial Life FLUTEUR DE VAUCANSON MClangerUI F I G U R E 7.29 To design a machine that played a flute. Similarly. Diagramof the Flute-player's mechanismdrawnby Vaucanson's Andre biographers. too.2:12-13)..duc de Luynes.3 vols.FromDoyon and Liaigre. would play that one.. du Duc de Luynes Philipped'Albert. He devised various 29. Doyon and LucienLiaigre.. [Paris. In a word arthas done here all that .Jacques p.Memoires the Abbe Desfontainesemphasizedthat it was "thefingerspositioned 1860].

"pp. and the sounding-length of the flute damping the vibrations. Vaucanson wanted to test the influence of these three parameters on pitch. trans. 32.Mechanical dufluteur (London."Lettre On audiences'initialdisbeliefthat the Flute-player was actuallyplayinghis flute.). pp.and DavidLasocki. CLXXX (Desfontaines. ."p.30 To persuade people that the Flute-playerwas genuinely playing his flute. 19-20. and advance toward the hole (to approximate tilting the flute naturedoes in those who playthe flutewell.31 sound production in the flute.Re-enacting Artist: A Storyof theAmpico Piano(New York. SeeVaucanson.IrisUrwin Droz.Vaucanson'sidea was that the pitch of a note depended upon the speed of the air'svibrations as it left the flute. 274.which depended upon the position of the player'slips and their situation with respect to the flute's hole. which he claimed to approximateusing only four parameters.see Chapuisand MusicalInstruments. and his Flute-player was an acoustical experiment. which was determined by the player'sfinger positions. This processwas the ancestorof the procedureby which the first musicalrecordings weremade. 85-86. Arthur GeorgeGershwin. prefaceto Vaucanson.1739and 30 Apr.duringthe second and thirddecadesof the twentiethcentury. the firstknown such theory. drawback from the flute'shole (to approximatetilting the flute outward). This in turn depended upon three parameters:blowingpressure. p. and Registredes dufluteurautomate. automate.AlexanderBuchner. Archivesde l'Academiedes Sciences.n. Vaucanson submitted a memoir explaining its mechanism to the Paris This memoir begins with a theory of the physics of Academy of Sciences.SergeiRachmaninoff. when pianistssuch as ClaudeDebussy."AnAccountof the Mechanismof an Automatonor ImagePlayingthe GermanFlute.beyond a doubt" sur le flfiteurautomateet l'aristipemoderne. Likethe chemical process of digestion.LeMecanisme p. Automata.p. not only Vaucanson'stheory ofthe acoustics of the flute. This made flute playing subject to an "infinity"of variations. proces-verbaux Paris. 50).76-80. he told the academy that he had investigatedthe "PhysicalCauses"of the modification of sound in the flute "by imitating the same Mechanism in an Automaton.d. SeeVaucanson. the shape of the aperture. 1o.CriticalInquiry / Summer2003 ways of transmitting aspects of their playing into the design of his android. Vaucanson explained that he had chosen the flute because it was unique among wind instruments in having an "undetermined"aperture. Givens.1970)."quoted in JV.1739. to mark out measureshe had a flutist play a tune while another person beat time with a sharp stylus onto the rotating cylinder. 70-72.LeMecanisme JV.and ScottJoplinmarkedout rollsfor player-pianos. [ii]. Reproducing 31. close. des seancesfor 26 Apr. 30. See Larry the Rubinstein. Thatis what can be seen and heard.The lips could open. but also-in his choice of a subject-the experimental potential of mechanical simulation. "AnAccountof the Mechanismof an Automatonor ImagePlayingthe GermanFlute. For example.pp."32 As an experiment. the flute was a deliberatelyunlikely choice for a mechanical imitation. Vaucanson. the android tested.

flute tutors.1752). involvedin producingeachone by an arrangement alimit. thatseemedto indicate ThePiperalsoyieldeda surprising discovery hadasVaucanson reduction. erture.had a fixedapone couldimitatemechanically. by passingthrougha large Thehighernotes flute's full and the sounding-length. Hermannvon Helmholtzexplainedthe effectsof partialsin his Die Lehre derMusik(Braunschweig. a muchgreater foundthathumanpipersemployed rangeof blowing-prestheenormous labor andhe emphasized suresthantheythemselves realized. [v-ix].See Lasocki. unlikethe flute. and thethreeparameters aperture.. and octavesresultedfrom strongerblowing-pressures. for a givennote dependedupon the preceding note.althoughVaucanson choseaninstrument tionsof a humanfluteplayer-indeed. soundingtogether-blowing-pressure. at leastto mechanical sumedthateachnote wouldbe the productof a givenfingerpositioncombut he discoveredthat the bined with a particularblowing-pressure. projectwas to imitatethesesubtleties. if not to mechanism. Thiswas in factin conflictwith the recommendations published deniedthat pitchwas controlledby blowing-pressure. because seemed occupy boundary The pipe. alsphysiologische 1863).) Butpipersthemfor this effect. of some contemporary 34. length-governed pitch." him to havetwiceas manyblowing-pressures requiring morestrongly note resonate of the overtones higher pp. Therewas much disagreement preface.I Grundlagefirdie Theorie Tonempfindungen for helpingme to figureout the causesunderlyingVaucanson's am gratefulto MylesJackson acousticaldiscovery.16-17. his hypothesis that Theseresultsconfirmed and shortersounding-lengths. he deliberately able thatinvolved motionshe couldonlyapproximate-hewasnevertheless The Fluteof its natural to discover features to use his simulation subject.JohannQuantz.too. 23-24).and the physicsof selveswere not awareof compensating von Helmholtz. Ibid. vonden 35. die Flotetraversiere einerAnweisung SeeJohannJoachimQuantz. player a of what it to cansonchosethepipe.pp.34 the precisemodid not claimto reproduce Thus. zu spielen(Berlin. of leversand springs. Versuch actualpractice.pp.but it had only threeholes.616 JessicaRiskin / Originsof ArtificialLife Vaucanson was able to producethe lowest note by using the inward). more pressure that it required as notes (see "L. 4. aperture dampedby smallerapertures.in particular. so blowing-pressure to producea D afteran E than aftera C. andVauwasanother acoustical ThePipe-and-Tabor experiment.33 furtherattenuated weakestblowing-pressure.whichmeantthat the notes wereproofblowing-pressure variations ducedalmostentirely bythe humanplayer's He Vaucanson's and tongue-stops. .35 in the 186os was explained overtones by Hermann only 33.4. (Thehigher in the pipe thanthe lowerovertonesof the lowernote. even about fluteplayers' chap. imitationand mademanifest both the constraints upon mechanical player its epistemological utilitydespitetheseconstraints.

162). and that this decisionwill be madepublic"(quoted in RogerHahn. TheAnatomyof a Scientific Institution: TheParis Academyof Sciences." On pp. 145). tion.In1791. 38. In 1738.CriticalInquiry / Summer2003 Vaucanson's and Thus. SeeWolfgang von Kempelen. of boththeoryandcommon a successful one. 1666-1803 37." The resultwas a contraption box consistingof a resonating 36. Through twentyyearsof such attempts.duplicatingthe cube." LeMecanisme de laparolesuivide la description d'unemachine abbreviated "MP. and others'attemptsto simulatehuman speechin the lastthirdof the eighteenth Kempelen's Instruments and theImagination. [and]the actionof the tongue." "Eighteenth-Century . such as oboes and clarinets.the Abbe Desfontainespredictedin a reviewof Vaucanson's that the simulationof humanspeechwould proveto be imFlute-player because one couldneverknowprecisely "what possible goeson in thelarynx and glottis. Wetware.it yieldeda resultindependent experience. and Riskin.8. Amongthemwasa Hungarian engineer he published a "description of a speaking machine"38 inwhich pelen."Dela machineparlante. JulienOffrayde LaMettrie. Philosophesand mechanicians immediately beganto use Vaucanson's automata to gaugethe limitsof the mechanical imitationof life. [Berkeley. MayaRybalka Indianapolis. he had been sustained must by the convictionthat "speech be imitable.The mechanistmaverickJulienOffrayde La Mettriedisagreed.see Hankinsand Silverman. p. 69.The second life was phenomenonthat seemeda crucialtest of the limits of artificial spokenlanguage.1791). severalpeople took up the projectof artificial During the 1770os namedWolfgang vonKemspeech. "TheAcademyvoted that henceforthit will not receivenor examineanypaperconcerned with squaringthe circle.Man a MachineandMan a Plant. 1971].. wastoo organica processto be simlips"(quotedin IV.Richard A. Watsonand (1748. upon two phenomena that seemedto lie at the crux of the distinctionbetweenanimateand inhumanandnonhuman. atVaucanson's he concluded thata speaking machine Looking Flute-player could "nolongerbe regarded as impossible. Piperwasalsoan experiment.its movements. Enthusiasm for this problemwassuchthatin 1775 the Paris Academy of Sciences announced it wouldno longerconsider forperpetual proposals motion machines.trisectingthe angle. he had also triedmodifyingvoxhumana organpipes (fig. Thefirstphenomenon wasperpetual moanimate. chap.trans. p..Speaking ulated. 1994).andin the secondhalf of the centurytheybecamepreoccupied by questionsof posand Their discussion focused sibility impossibility.8). and perpetualmotion.p. 394-464.hereafter parlante(Vienna. its variedandimperceptible allthe modifications of the jawandthe rubbings.36 the Aristotelian reaffirming principlethat self-generated motion distinguished the animatefrom the inanimate.its folds. he reported bellowsandresonators to musical instruments havingattached that resembled the humanvoice. century.likethe Flute-player."37 and 178os.

439.p.I: nT... FromWolfgangvon Kempelen... FIGU RE 8.. . h1 )j j .LeMtcanismede la pa- role. Kempelen's speakingmachine. ..X ji L ....

395-400).hereafter Astonishing Chess-Player IR.40 Its conmy friend. namely." p.orDay and Year trans.Critical Inquiry / Summer 2003 619 with a bellows letting into it on one side.Annals. said words like "'Mama"'and "'Papa. p.letterto HerzogCarlAugust.1901o]. and Rs. . In general. 405. p."p."' but only indistinctly. the possibility of mechanizing thought itself. It pronounced vowels and consonants in a childish voice. abbreviated 40. 401). Kempelen had tried to atomize patterned sound in mechanizing it.Goethesaw Vaucanson's threeautomatain Helmstadtand reportedthat they were "utterly the paralyzed. after meeting it."Automata. KarlGottliebvon Windisch. New York. Zs.and ed. 123. two connected with whistles and the third with a wire that could be dropped onto the reed."41 Kempelen and his supporters emphasized that the machine was imperfect and claimed that it was not so much a speaking-machine as a machine that demonstrated the possibility of constructing a speakingmachine (see IR."p. like Vaucanson's." had fallen"mute."p. and his results.InanimateReason: or a CircumstantialAccount of that PieceofMechanism.1784). 196. 49). and in the linking of whole words and phrases" ("MP. Kempelen reported that he had first tried to produce each sound in a given word or phrase independently but failed because the successive sounds needed to take their shape from one another: "the sounds of speech become distinct only by the proportion that exists among them.p."preface. Like Vaucanson. ?243). and a rubber "mouth" on the other side. 113)."'39 versation bored Goethe who. Nisbet [1805. Strauss. see pp.but had lost Flute-player its powersof digestion"(Goethe. 47. Instruments and theImagination. In a sense. such as "'you are my friend-I love you with all my heart"' ("MP. that the parts relied upon the pattern. de Kempelen's (London. Kempelenperceiveda further constraint upon the mechanization of language: the reliance of comprehension upon context (see "MP. This machine yielded an empirical finding reminiscent of Vaucanson's discovery that the blowing-pressure for a given note depended upon the preceding note.quotedin Hankins and Silverman. This observation raised another problem in which he was keenly interested. Charles Papers 1749-1822. one could produces Ss.though.had indicated a particular check on mechanical reduction. "'my wife is and "'come with me to Paris. Two little pipes in the lower part of the box served as nostrils ("MP. and not just the pattern upon the parts. By means of three levers on the box.12 June1797. p. acting as lungs. JohannWolfgang von Goethe. Listening to his machine's blurred speech. 401).Several yearslater. that is. M. Kempelen'smachine was only moderatelysuccessful.'" and uttered some phrases. 41."and the Duck "stilldevouredhis oats brisklyenough. Kempelen had alreadybeen working on 39. pronounced it "not very loquacious. Inside the box was an ivory reed that Kempelen likened to the human glottis.

Courtesyof the Departmentof SpecialCollections. Strauss.. TheLifeand Timesof theFamousEighteenth-Century Chess-Playing Machine(New York....:. . ... ^^i?^-^^-^*~~ ."" xl. 1939). .... . .. ....Schaffer.: _ZS .. .:y. 154-64. 134.. Notesand Queries.....: ?~ ...AleckAbrahams. sur lejoueurd'echecs Lettres de M. L 7 .p. ... and in the course of its long careerit bested Frederick the Great.." Allan Poeand BaronvonKempelen's (Kenton.....1999)..=r-~l.2002).43 In 42.42 The Turknot only played human opponents. :. 162.._...."Anatomy of the ChessAutomaton... 8 Apr... and he too remains best known for a spectacularlyfraudulent automaton. :~:: .. .Automata. :.1922.. --:1aTF _.. . FrancisSpuffordand Mechanism. .'~ ... Babbage: Technology. .JanGolinksi. Napoleon.:: . ... 155-56..." Time..built in 1769 and exhibited across Europe and America by Kempelen himself and then by others through 1840 (fig. Dancerand the Impresarios (New York....::.-5..-. On Kempelen's Turk. .StanfordUniversityLibraries.. de Kempelen (1783)..1996). but it also generously corrected their mistakes. RidgelyEvans..'i'. . Like Vaucanson... " K * . 65-75and "Enlightened ed..pp.:4. Chess-player....' . and Henry p..Kempelen's Automaton Automata. ... Von Kempelen's chess-playingTurk.. .From KarlGottliebvan Windisch....and Europe.o_... ...and Invention...r~"" ':... "Babbage's in Cultural ed. / . .... ." Fraser's Magazine l9 (June1839): "Dr... 620 Riskin / Originsof ArtificialLife Jessica ..~..... 43.: . x ~ . z. ..-.= sK T.... in TheSciences in Automata." j :... . .. See [GeorgeWalker].Edgar Chess-PlayingAutomaton Ohio.. . he designed both genuine and fraudulent automata.. ..???. 14. 1w .... ." p.:.." JennyUglow (London..... the chess-playing Turk.pp....1975).. ..TheTurk. this problem.and Schaffer(Chicago.: '6 .: ^ :... . Enlightened TomStandage..TheGreatChess chess-playing of Automaton Simon Schaffer.. F I G U R E 9. ."':':..._. "Enlightened 725. Benjamin Franklin. :......tiC su =Fsr / . WilliamClark.see CharlesMichaelCarroll. 9).pp.. :. :-.-/.... and Charles Babbage.

9:173-212.Kempelen's 48. Forprominentdebunkingsof the Turk.pp. 5. "Dr.34. interest both the mechanical simulation of growing the bounds of Evenwhile they insinuatedthat the Turktranscended dumb mechanism.at4. .but of a connection of betweenintelligence on one side theboundary andmachine on theother.to carryout the fraudcelebrated as "theboldestideathateverenteredthe brainof thatWindisch a mechanic" (IR.p." vols. out its answers spelling by pointingto letterson a board.it did "honorto humannature.the Turk's motionsweredirected by human in its pedestal. (New York. asa mere"bagatelle" and himselfspokedeprecatingly of theTurk Kempelen in it hadbeen to createan "illueveninsistedthathis majorachievement whichwasfueledby a Yetthis did not detractfromits fascination. and Observations on theAutomatonChess Now Exhibited in Player.18.to all the other squaresin successionwithout touchingany square twice. SeeAbrahams.An AttempttoAnalysethe AutomatonChess and Edgar Allan Poe. entitled InanimateReason. Gottlieb vonWindisch. 23-24. lo.In 1784.p.see RobertWillis.as such.TheGreatChess Automaton."Automata.Maelzel(Boston.pp.45 In the event. EdmundClarenceStedmanand GeorgeEdward "Eureka. He admiredKempelen'saccomplishment. 39. A Knight's Tourentailsmoving a knight. 47.pp. SpringGardens (London. p. attipublishedan accountof the Turkthat epitomizedthis contradictory tude. in ThisCountry Exhibiting byMr.1914).1821).ananonymous laterto playtheTurk. Kempelen's promotersalso arguedthat its interestlay of this same boundaryseparating mere mechanism in its dramatization Karl fromwarmlife. Flute-player's engagement was "adeception" dischwas also certainthatthe Turk andthat. In his account. See also IR. not of an identitybetweenintelligence and machine. TheHistoryandAnalysisof theSupposed AutomatonChess Now PlayerofM. SpringGardens returning In the sameyear. 15. PlayerofMr. thisfraud. See IR.48 reviewer wrotethat 44.Babbage Reason to a demonstration of the Turkat broughthis copy of Inanimate in Londonandtook careful notesin its margins.In 1819.13." and Strauss. sion.1826). a friendof Kempelen's. 45. 24. AutomatonChess-player. de Kempelen. o10 Woodberry.and Miscellanies.de Kempelen " ed. London.and Carroll. like concealed chessplayers ingeniously Although until the middleof the next century. v).it couldperforma Knight's Tour44 and respond to questionsfromthe audience. 155. Chess-Player."47 in life andin its limits. 46." At the same Wintime. p. however. Windisch's of the Turkwas pickedup by latercommentators and analysis remainedinfluentialwell into the followingcentury.46 was not established Vaucanson's.startingon anysquareand using the rule governingthe knights'moves." And it was Kempelen's abilityto unitethesetwo powers-in otherwords.1819). "Maelzel's (London." Windisch identified two separate "powers. Windischextolledthe Turk'sengagementof the understanding as comparable to Vaucanson's of "the ear. See IR.Critical Inquiry / Summer2003 621 additionto playingchess." a visible"vismotrix"and a hidden"visdirectrix. 134." p.

capable. I am indebtedto the studentsin my 1998and 1999"Prehistory to Poe'sessayand to Deep Blue. But Poe nevertheless took such responsiveness to be essential to mind and beyond the reach of machine."ScientificAmerican 42-45 and TheLiving chaps. He was not alone.. 30.EdgarAllan Poe wrote admiringlyofVaucanson'sDuck and then used it to examine the plausibility of Kempelen's chess player and of the other automaton then in the news. MITfor the responsesdescribedin this paragraph the concept of 52. The MITengineerNorbertWienerplayedthe leadingrole in formulating and Communication in theAnimaland the feedback." However.SeeNorbertWiener. Edgar seminarsat of Computers" 51.like animals.177. he did not believe in the chess-playing automaton because he said chess was an "uncertain"process.52 at 4. as any that has ever been exhibited to the world. 49. machines that responded to external conditions by means of feedback loops-thermostats and steam engines. Babbage'sDifferenceEngine." AllanPoeandBaronvonKempelen's Chess-PlayingAutomaton."it nevertheless "display[ed] a power of invention as bold and original.51 sequence of moves?Why could it not respond to each move of its opponent as it went along? It is striking that Poe should have believed this to be impossible. could be mechanized. see W. If the Duck was "ingenious. GreyWalter. 1970). In 1836. 1948).TheOriginsof Feedback Control (Cambridge.Control Machine(Cambridge. "Maelzel's Turk. ChessPlayer. On Poe and the chess-playing 50.50 Looking over the history of automata since Vaucanson. or. Observations on theAutomaton pp.32. Now Exhibited in London.1953).like digestion and flute playing. pp. compute astronomical and navigation tables?" He decided he did believe in the calculating engine because arithmetic. SpringGardens. To a twenty-first-centuryelectricalengineer or computer scientist. people began to understand machines that employed what we now call feedback as responsive to their environments only around the two centuries after the proliferation of middle of the twentieth century.Cybernetics. As conjurers. Poe. "what shall we think of an engine of wood and metal which can.5 and 7. Only "determinate"processes.. Life.of interacting 182(May1950): Brain(New York. Even at the time he was writing. they did something of genuine interest:they createdmachines that straddled the breach between the possible and the impossible. and Otto Mayr. Poe's Why must a machine carry out only a predetermined logic is perplexing. was "finite and determinate.622 Jessica Riskin / Originsof ArtificialLife although the Turkmust be directedby "some human agent.Forother earlydiscussionsof machinesas informationprocessors "AnImitationof with theirenvironments.though. 176. Chess-Player.see Evans."he wondered. he decided. Poe tried to define a criterion of possibility."49 Defecation and chess playing had something in common: both seemed beyond the bounds of mechanism and therebyprovoked mechanicianswho were interested in testing the limits of their craft to become conjurers. . for example-had been in plentiful supply for almost a century (and in existence for much longer).

5.ed.Inof machinesand of humanshave. . for example. simultaneously.haveassumeda thatdefecating Ducksheldin the mid-eighteenth century: they significance an operation-arguablytheoperation-that previously seemedto perform typifylivingcreatures.understandings in simulation the of shapedone anotherin earlyeighteenth century.3 vols. iAug.simulationto replacement. See. BeaunetakesVaucanson's fromautomatato industrialautomation.4 identify production 53. bugs respond noises.i980). 2002.since the emerstead.Ian Patterson. of thelimitsof mechanical simulation wasinextricably question temological tied to a set of economicandsocialproblems andimplications. How peopledistinguish betweenmachineandanimalcapabilities is not determined by the sorts of machinesin existenceat a givenmoment. gence the ongoing dialecticthat this essayhas been tracing.He returnsto this (Paris.and I have been arguinghere. artificial that can to ceptualshift.5Others pointto this shiftas evidencethatwe aremovingthe goalpostswith eachnew achievement. Foran argumentthat "beforethinkingof automatingmanuallabor. in "TheClassical trajectory An Impressionistic Age of Automata: Surveyfromthe Sixteenthto the NineteenthCentury.and economic aspectsof simulation shapedone another-rather than the epistemological precedingthe technicalthat in turn precededthe economic.P ."see Jean-Claude etses mobiles Beaune. theability to playGo. MichelFeher.Ramona Naddaff. But this recentredefinition of intelligence.i989). (NewYork.Theseelementswereall inextricably presentin the very constitutionof the questionof whatwas essentialto life or of what constitutedintelligentbehavior. playchessas a defining it seemto me ratherto demonstrate the historical of anydefcontingency initionof intelligence andthecomplexity of the forcesthatinteract to shape such definitions."Inan AncientGame.Not only has our understanding of whatconstitutes into what we have been able to make machines telligencechangedaccording do but.one must conceiveof thelimbsof man.and NadiaTaxi.When IBM'sDeep BluebeatGary in 1997." Times.CriticalInquiry / Summer2003 623 such machinesduringthe Industrial In the wakeof this conRevolution." trans. to excludethe abilityto andthelonghistoryof suchrevisions before feature. It seems to me however. technological. wasby no meansof purelyphilosophical Theepisinterest. 54. p. mostArtificial researchers and Kasparov Intelligence decidedthatchessplayingdid not require commentators after intelligence allanddeclared a newstandard. WhenVaucansonwasappointed of SilkManufactures in 1741.whichpreoccupied philosophers teenthcentury. 1:43i-80.thatthe epistemological.he onceagain Inspector assumedthat automation was specificto a certaindomainand set out to its boundaries and to reshape industrial around them. our understanding of what machinescan do has alteredaccording to whatwe havetakenintelligence to be. 257.Computing's New York Future.KatieHafner.suchas the one describedin a passagequotedat the beginningof this essay.L'Automate mechanically representing careeras his centralcase. in Fragments for a Historyof theHumanBody. The problemof whatconstitutes actionas measured intelligent against mechanical of themid-to lateeighaction.

624 Jessica Riskin / Originsof ArtificialLife The result was a transformedunderstandingof the nature of human labor. 55."To remedy this situation.55 time it representedthe reverse of another subsequent trend. In other words. But Frenchpeasantswho raisedsilkwormsgenerallytook the cocoons to market and sold or traded them to merchants and artisansof all types. 416. Vaucanson did not think. See CharlesCoulstonGillispie.pp. the primary material was the long fibers drawn from cocoons and reeled into thread. These people would then reel the silk themselves or hire peasant women to do it. he proposed to educate a population of expert tireuses. The factories would serve as "seminaries"for silk reeling (JV. the firstexperiments in automation were devoted to determining its uppermost limits. In the case of silk. which simultaneously meant identifying the lowest limits of humanity. Orry..women trained in silk reeling. N. throughless intelligent human in the middle. was especially worried about Italian competition in silk.Science andPolityat theEndof the OldRegime(Princeton.198o). which was the difficulty of procuring good primary material domestically.was a program to industrialize skill. J. where comprising a Royal Manufacture guaranteedby the Royal Treasury. Vaucanson complained that "everyoneindiscriminatelywants to reel silk without reason or knowledge. locating the divide somewhere along a spectrum from intelligenthuman at one end. 142-45). and to establish standards. the finance minister who had recruited Vaucanson. 456. He would accomplish both by creating a company of silk merchant-manufacturers. But the Royal Manufacture. . CharlesGillispiehas pointed out that this was an early example of a combination that would be characteristic of the post-Revolutionary French economy: expert consulting. His diagnosis was that silk reelingwas a delicate and skilledjob. who would in turn establish seven factories. was an early example of that.pp. and government guaranteeand oversight. that automation was relevant to the biggest problem confronting French textiles. silk would be reeled under ideal conditions. discussed below. requiring workers to adapt themselves to the quality of individual cocoons. Vaucanson'sautomatic loom.on the contrary.462). and arrivingat the other end in machinery. for example. as in experimental philosophy. Silkthread availableon the domestic marketwas so poor that Frenchmanufacturersoften had to import their threadfrom Piedmont. This understandingderived from a new way of drawingthe distinction between intelligent and unintelligent work. the deskilling of factory work through mechanization.p. in political economy. So Vaucanson'sfirst effort as silk inspector was directed at improving domestic primarymaterial (see JV. But at the same private money.

Automaton makersdesigned simulations for specific. such as the Jaquet-Drozfamily'spros56.the mimesis involved in automata often served an experimental function. 191-203). and "EV. However. Back in Paris. as has been most strikinglyapparent in Vaucanson'sandroid musicians. Vaucanson wanted the cooperation of the merchant-manufacturers.Essaiphisique sur l'oeconomie animale (Paris.89-91. The loom looks in retrospectlike a very differentsort of automaton." mechanical models of bodily processes such as respiration and circulation. 625 .Strauss.1916). He was forced to flee Lyon in the dead of night.57Reciprocally.so he restoredtheir monopolies and provoked a silk-workers'strikeaccompanied by some of the worst pre-Revolutionary rioting of the century.CriticalInquiry / Summer2003 This program proved ill-fated."Automata.and Doyon and Liaigre.1736). Forone thing.5. the Royal Manufacture was instantly embroiled in a fierce strugglebetween the roughly 250 silk merchant-manufacturersof Lyonand the roughly 3. One might be tempted to distinguish mimetic from pragmatic devices by their outward resemblance to their natural subjects." 2:655.see JV.34." og9." 57. we have seen. intended for utility ratherthan mimesis. 1o). such as experiment and entertainment. On Vaucanson's For moving anatomies. most earlyprojects in artificiallife combined the pragmatic with the mimetic (just as.Les family'sprostheses.which is now at the Musee des Arts et Metiers in Paris (fig. 298-99. other examplesof moving anatomies." p.see FrancoisQuesnay. these projects represented other distinctively Enlightenment combinations. compareedu biomecanismeet de "Methodologie la mecaniquecomparee."Eighteenth-Century Wetware. is misleading when applied to the earlyhistory of artificiallife. increasing their chances of becoming independent. between machines designed to replace human or animal functions and machines designed to simulate aspects of human or animal life. On the Jaquet-Droz and F-Louis Perrot.pp. Vaucanson's "moving anatomies. His efforts culminated in the automatic loom of 1747.18. disguised as a monk. See also Riskin.pp."Eighteenth-CenturyWetware.000 master workerswho ran their shops and who sometimes succeeded in setting up their own (there were about 160 independent shops in 1744). Vaucanson turned his attention from education to automation and from silk reeling to weaving. Establishedby a regulation of the city of Lyon in 1744." pp. pp. 219-23. 140. were intended for physiological experimentation and to test medical therapies such as bleeding.see CharlesPerregaux et Leschot (Neuchatel. but in fact some devices designed for particularuses. and the regulation was annulled (see JV.56The Jaquet-Droz family borrowed devices and materials from their automata to construct prosthetic limbs.this distinction. The workers had recently won a repeal of certain merchant-manufacturer monopolies. Jaquet-Droz and Riskin.practical uses.pp. ino. 31-36. philosophy and entrepreneurialism).and chap.1oo-111.

" La Revue.. ii:% i: 'i F I G U R E 10. 1997):36. mecanicienet montreurd'automates. 20 (Sept. while some designed for the sake of imitation and experimentation.626 Jessica Riskin / Originsof ArtificialLife . closely resembled their natural subjects..K .no."Vaucanson. FromClaudetteBalpe. 'i'. thetic limbs.. such as Kempelen'stalking machine.~:~-~ :. That the simulation of appearanceand of function came in various combinations was an expression of the experimental impetus . did not.?i. Vaucanson's automaticloom.

2000) and Cloaca. it took over a function that had hitherto been. Automaton designers used their devices to study the relations between the outer and the inner: form and process.playedduringthe seventeenth. The loom did not reproduce the motions of a human weaver in the way that the Flute-playerenacted those of a human flutist.and automatonmakers confinedtheireffortsto reproducing animals'outwardbehaviorsfor artisticpurposes.In between. Even when a simulation was purely functional. and the automatic loom provides another. A recentinstallationby the BelgianartistWim Delvoyemakesmanifestthe current willingnessto separatefunctionalfrom mimetic simulation. its designer and other commentators drew from it the same sorts of implications regardingthe nature of human life. not only human. and intelligence that they drew from android automata.which reproduced only externalbehaviorand not inner function.Cloaca. Delvoye'sdigestingand bench. .however. it could serve as evidence for a materialist-mechanist understanding of life. assumedthe role that clockworkamusementssuch as de Caus'sbirds.in the earlytwenty-first century. with no attempt to reproduce the outward appearanceof the naturalmodel.acids. bodily movement and physiology.thus theireffortsto reproduceeachwere as inseparable as were appearance the artistic. the simulationof inner functiondid not yet commandphilosophicalinterest. The fact that a machine could do this human job belonged. Kempelen'stalking machine is one example.SeeWim througha seriesof six transparent New and Improved (New York.with a systemof tubesand pumpsleading defecatingmachine.Delvoyeinsiststhat its purposeis solelyartistic and in no way experimental. Despitethe fact Delvoye. it provokedthe same kind of philosophical speculation as mimetic machines.bacteria. automatonmakersand commentatorswerekeenlyinterestedin the relationsbetweenoutward and inner function.58 life the mere fact that a machine could carry out a complex human activity had the same salience as a mimetic automaton. We take it for granted that machines can replace a greatvariety of human functions without actuallysimulating human performances of them and that functional replacements of human activities do not have the same implications for how we understand But in the earlydays of artificial those activities as simulations would have.its philosophicalinteresthas waned. On that basis. in the same category as the fact that a machine could play a musical instrument. it could provoke a rethinking of the boundary dividing humanity from machinery.Now. The automatic loom constituted just such a provocation. but highly skilled:the weaving of patterned fabrics.2001).Critical Inquiry / Summer 2003 627 behind projects in artificiallife. action and thought. The loom was a close cousin of Vaucanson'sthree automata.Perhapsfor this reasonfunctionalsimulationscan become purelyartisticprojectsthe way clockworkamusementsonce were. However.and philosophicalcomponentsof theirwork.Cloaca(Ghent.and bases.technological.looks like a laboratory vats containingenzymes. work. Thus functionalsimulationshave. at the same time. the simulationof inner functionis familiarenough that.it was built 58. Whether the machine performs the function in the same way as human beings perform it is a more recent worry.exceptin the contextof mentalprocesses. that his machineis a purelyfunctionalsimulation. and. for them.At that time.

.The needlesreforward.p. became"sosimplethat learn..ThePrinciples Frederick (New York. constituted neither A hybridentity. [and] demand a higher salary"(quoted in JV. Vaucanson wantedto eliminate thesilkworkAccording erswho hadrunhim out of town." complexone. Vaucanson fabricsmuch morebeautifuland much moreperfectthanthe most clever workersof silk.see WinslowTaylor.p. the only sciencerequired could be "substituted for those who "mostlimitedpeople. chap. 16.et avecquel 60.pp. pp. intendedto transform a identified Frederick WinslowTaylor's methods." But. SeeJV.DerJacquard-Webstuhl (Munich.il va montrer.60 Butthefullstorywasmorecomplicated."Thusthe . need not. VauThe "reading of designs." Paris. an assmakes boastedthatwith his machinea "horse.. A rotating artisans. was loom.1911). [are] more intelligent.on the automatic loom. thereedpoundsthecloth.and Garanger. did not requireintelligence.the shuttlepropels rollsitselfonto the cylinder." .225-35.was "theoperationthat demandsthe most intelligence" or to "It is so difficult it three four that requires years silk-production.1993)."even "girls.. his functional the categories andunintelligent of intelligent work.attached by a bar. sous l'impressionprofondedes evenementsde Lyon.61Anyhumanactivitythat couldbe simulated.Thehybridwasthe productof a newprinto whichone measured humanlabor. 210). 27-28. Mechanization.raisingthe selectedwarp-threads.Jacques (exhibitioncatalogue. the warp fabricweaveitselfon the loom withouthumanintervention itselfthrough.pp.. 206.Vaucanson Anticipating to set of tasksgenerally takento requireintelligence but which. by the sameParisian cylinder was perforated It to the to be woven. to the corresponding cords. 468-69).. 61.the loom andits "limited" operator inertmachinenor full human. This taxonomicprincipleworkedto transforma 59. Vaucanson's automatic simulation of a weaver.Almut Bohnsack.according even a very him.628 Riskin / Originsof ArtificialLife Jessica and it workedsimilarly.pp. according only againstotherhumanlabor. of Scientific Management ." Theseclaimswerequotedin an enthusiastic reviewof the loom in November 1745in the Mercurede France(JV.1983).not cipleof classification."He imaginedan animistfactoryin which "one sees the .p. in cansonnoted.59 an ox. Vaucanson Conservatoire Nationaldes Artset Metiers. ForTaylor's applicationof the distinctionbetweenintelligentand unintelligentwork. qu'il est possiblede se passerd'un grandnombred'ouvriers pour actionnerles metiersdes canutslyonnais"(JV.2. 179-81.thecloth opens. this operation is to know how to count to ten. "Encore brio. turned pattern againsta according frameof horizontal needlesconnected to vertical cordscomingup fromthe Thespacesin the cylinder needles warp-threads.werethenraised mainingin place. 208). to hisbiographers. pushedthecorresponding whilethe holes allowedthem to remainin place.but alsoin relationto workthatcouldbe done by a machine.Musee "Industrial Nationaldes Techniques.

Sucha contrastbetweeninstinctualmechanical laborand its rationalanalysisaccompaniedprocessesof subordinationand rule"(Schaffer. cisionmakingor language-must be emblematic was preceded This development a and by century a halfof reevaluation in Encyclop6die. 62.See alsoWilliamH. Sewell. political Contemporary economyrelied on this demarcation and other.Vaucanson did not inventthe divisionof workers schemealready into the intelligent andunintelligent. I would add to this the suggestionthatthe divisionwas a "Enlightened dynamicone.to the verybottom of the hierarchy-but the comparativelylowlytaskof silk reelingremaineda matterof humanskillandwas therefore elevated to a higherposition. then somethingelse-say. Alongthe samelines.6Artificial life andartificial intellievenas they genceimpliednew meaningsfor reallife andrealintelligence. 64.At some moments in this ongoing process.Diderot'sEncyclop6iie defined artistas the name given to the mostintelligence." Inquiry21 (Autumn1994): 182-202.technology. See Lorraine Critical Daston. continuallyredrawn throughan interactionamong the naturalsciences. Schaffer has writtenthat "enlightened scienceimposeda divisionbetweensubjectsthat could be automatedand those reservedfor reason. while an intuitiveprocesssuch as makingthe subtleadaptations to reelsilkproperlyremained required the provinceof human beings.Lorraine demotedat the beginningof the nineteenthcenturyfrombeingparadigand therefore the antithesis of matic of intelligenceto being mechanical If a machinecould calculate.similarones. took reallife and realintelligence to were shapedby whattheirdesigners Dastonhasobserved thatcalculation was be.for example.and populatingthis borderregionwith hybridscomVaucanson redefined the andlimitedhumans.and politicaleconomy. 23. in the mechanical workers artswhoseworkrequired the leastintelligence." p. But at other moments a rationalprocesssuch as readingfabricpatternslandedon the side of machinery.. weaving Vaucansondemoted the readingof designs.6 Butby making while the workof artisans required the uncertainboundarybetweenhuman and machinethe centerof the spectrumof labor. cameto seemlesshumanandothersmore humanoccupations Certain to whatmachines couldandcouldnot do. 63.M of humanintelligence.reason lay on the oppositeside of the line frommachinery. ." and 1:745. between ('productive" was the of the and work central to social hierarchy intelligent unintelligent Old Regime. 164). human. Automata. The French Physiocrats' between of economicreform. deintelligence. Forexample.and instincton the same side.CriticalInquiry / Summer2003 629 in place. of Labor from theOldRegimeto1848(Cambridge.according madeit possibleto automate cerwhen the sophisticated use of camshafts becameunintelligent tain kindsof patterned workmovements. restedon a distinction program Theparticular discrimination and"'sterile" workers. P.which had been the most intelligentwork.Jr. prisedof complexmachines old categories.Work Revolution in France: TheLanguage 1980).moral philosophy. See "Artisan" and "Artiste. "Enlightenment Calculations.

67 The social. working out how to apply the formulas to a given calculation. Kormes. had to be the work of "eminent mathematicians.1996). while at the same time their assumptions about what machines could do were shaped and reshaped by contrast with what they took human intelligence to be. human and artificialintelligence.Computer: and Campbell-Kelly Calculations. Bookin Mathematics.see also constant.8:136. .LelandLocke.and later CharlesBabbage. CharlesBabbage."66 And Babbageplaced computation at the bottom of a tripartite hierarchy into which he divided the making of tables. avecun avisnecessaire ed. He attributed this "division of mental labor"to the French engineer GaspardRiche de Prony.The two categories." (Autumn1994):203-27.in A Source p.The tableswere computedby the method of the relevanttheorembeing that for a polynomialof degreen. Consider the divisions of labor they drew. continually resurle sujetde la machine 65."Lettre dedicatoirea Monseigneurle Chancelier nouvellementinventeeparle sieurB.65 G."And the third. The top of the hierarchy. ed. too." Dancer. which had indicated to de Prony that he could reduce table making to operations simple enough that they could be performed by unskilledworkers-as it happened. GottfriedWilhelmLeibniz.L.establishing the formulas.trans."The second level. andManufactures 67. required"considerableskill."Babbage's Beitrage ed. A Historyof andWilliamAspray. divisiovero paenenullo animilaboreperagantur" (1685). de Prony hired hairdressersleft unemployed by the transformed hairstyle of the post-Revolutionary era-and their ability to do the job implied for Babbagethat a machine could do it.Mark Bookin Mathematics. (London.630 Riskin / Originsof ArtificialLife Jessica of human versus machine capabilities. Early designers of calculating machines defined human intelligence by contrast with what they believed machines could do. 181. New York. which he said the machine would supply.TheEconomy (1822).1.who in turn said he had been inspired by Adam Smith's description of pin making. Leibniz. Blaise Pascal placed the line between judgment. the nth differenceis a differences.chap. Inquiry Calculating Enginesand the FactorySystem.p.1959)."Critical "Babbage's Intelligence: zur in EcceCortex: and "OKComputer. natural and synthetic life. notions of human and machineintelligenceand mentallabor. W.137.P. which he assigned to the human operator of his mechanical calculator.pour fairetoutes sortesd'operationsd'arithmetique parun a ceux qui aurontcuriositede voir mouvementreglesansplume ni jetons. in qua non additiotantumet subtractio arithmetica 66.On Babbage's 21 Schaffer. 169. Geschichte desmodernen Gehirns. o10 Babbage.in A Source DavidEugeneSmith (1929.1989). Leibnizsaid it was "unworthy of excellent men to lose hours like slaves in the labor of calculation.TheWorks of Charles of Machinery See Daston.1999). SeeBlaisePascal.both took computation itself to be the antithesis of intelligent work. MartinCampbell-Kelly. the epistemological. required so little ability that Babbage believed it could be done by his calculating engines. carryingout the actual calculations. vols.and memory. and the economic dimensions of determinations of intelligence were everywhereinseparable." "Enlightenment theInformation Machine(New York. MichaelHagner(Gottingen."Machina sed et multiplicationullo. laditemachineet s'en servir"(1645).trans.

LeMondedesautomates.or virtue!"(LaMettrie.Carrying automation to its limit on one side of the boundary would expand the horizons. Lady-musician. de Vocanson and all the machinists on earth to make an artificialface that expressesthe passions. before him. This notion of machinery on one side of the boundary and genius on the other brings up another dimension of the investigation of the limits of artificiallife. 280-81. Automates (LaChaux-de-Fonds. and the early history of artificial life was driven by two contradictory forces:the impulse to simulate and the conviction that simulation was ultimately impossible.. of greatpoets. Vaucanson promised that his automatic loom would open vast "new fields . de Vocanson caused a piece of wood dressed as a man to play a flute-concert.not only by opposition.the most mechanical. 11)..by the charmsof nature. 13).Man a MachineandMan a Plant. But an 1820treatise on mechanical simulation took Vaucanson'sachievements to represent an outer limit. yet. (1721-1790).who are imaginative by a well-expressed transported by an exquisitetaste. Pendules. of those who areravished sentiment.and Comitedes Fetesdu 25oeanniversaire naissancede PierreJaquet-Droz LesOeuvres desJaquet-Droz. the driving force behind the projects of artificiallife was the assumption that life could be simulated and that the simulations would be useful by being analogous to naturallife.. 56 n. et Montres. to the genius of fabric-designers"(quoted in JV. "I defy M.truth.Automata. Condorcet proposed a redefinition of the "mechanician" as one who made machines "execute operations that we were obliged. "Ifwhat thinksin my brainis not a partof thatvital organ. because to expressthe passions of the soul.CriticalInquiry / Summer2003 defined one another by opposition. In his eulogy of Vaucanson.pp. one must have a soul" (quoted in JV. Each new simulation implied a new territory beyond the reach of imitation. pp. Vaucanson's automatic musicians set off a discussion of whether artistic creativity could be automated."2:649). on the other side. of genius. So these categories reallyredefined one another." simulating the motions of music making had been possible. he continued.and consequentlyof the whole body.. p. but.68She gave so titillating an impression of the bodily manifestation of powerful emotion that she seemed to confirm LaMettrie's argument that the passions and the artistic creativity they fueled were. of all human attributes. And.p. not by being its antithesis."a harpsichordist. In 1772.Chapuisand Droz. to entrust to the intelligence of men" ("EV. 631 .why does my blood heat up when I am lying tranquillyin bed thinking. On the other hand. Pierre Jaquet-Droz designed a "Lady-Musician.a skeptic observed that "ever since M. Askthis of men.69 Vaucanson'sproject to identify the boundaries of artificiallife was pursued after his death. stating that the only 68. 2:270de la 78. On the Jaquet-Droz see Chapuisand Gelis. 1971). 471). 69. but also by analogy. its aesthetic dimension. whose eyes followed her fingers and whose breast heaved with the music (fig.. 63-64). two years later.

10 . p.: r. . ..1820). "vital functions that mechanics [could] imitate" were respiration and digestion. . > $ C 632 Jessica Riskin / Originsof ArtificialLife :411 -w . ... y' . ^ si} 4.. #Wi.. 8 of Traite de mecanique imitatives 70. appliquee . vol. : .S .. *4 * i E :.: . * ? 2 e FIG URE Photo: JessicaRiskin. . . Borgnis..S .70With the elaboration of artificiallife in the century afterVaucanet theatrales. 11. 118.Des machines complet aux arts(Paris.gR =. - z . J.The Jaquet-Droz family'sLady-musician.s:::S B :s 8w. :.m.: .s:...A.6.

Popular Lectures on Scientific trans. on the one hand. but only if it were sharply restricted. . Eveet al."71 This formula encapsulated the conflicting impulses that had informed Vaucanson's career and the early history of artificial life and intelligence more generally. with social taxonomies like the Old Regime distinction between artists (intelligent) and artisans (unintelligent). and that life and intelligence were defined precisely by the impossibility of reproducing them. trans. redrawingthe same boundary and reevaluatingits implications for the nature of life. ."but he observed that after Vaucanson people had stopped trying to build multiply imitative automata that would "fulfilthe thousand services required of one man" and had turned instead to building machines that would perform only one service. natural philosophers and engineers became continually more interested in its limits. New York. work. in discussions of modern technologies from robotics to cloning. Helmholtz advised. The resultwas a continual redrawingof the boundarybetween human and machine and redefinition of the essence of life and intelligence.with technological innovations. Subjects. 71. principallythe automatic loom. (1873.JohnTyndall. The contradictory convictions-that one could understand life and intelligence by reproducingthem. They worked in continual engagement with philosophical developments such as the rise of a materialismthat coexisted with a profound ambivalenceabout mechanist explanations of nature. W. 137." He called Vaucanson's Duck "the marvel of the last century. and thought."Onthe Interactionof NaturalForces"(1854). In 1854. on the other-went into operation in the early part of the eighteenth century. the place of a thousand men.with culturalfactors.Critical Inquiry / Summer 2003 633 son's automata.notably the emergence of a public for popular science.H. Helmholtz. eager to witness the quandaries of natural philosophy dramatized..pp. 1895). and with economic projects such as industrial rationalization.138. we are continuing a project whose rudiments were established two and a half centuries ago by the defecating Duck that didn't.Helmholtz criticized what he took to be an earlier tendency in the mechanical arts to consider "no problem beyond its power.Artificiallife could be hugely powerful. Insofar as we are still. but in performing it would "occupy.