Human Robots and Computer Art

Since the myths of creation were composed, writes John Cohen, men have tried to emulate the gods. Is the twentieth-century computer capable of the daemonic urge?

Myths of creation conceive of God as one who knows a closely guarded and much envied secret, the secret of making mannikins, ‘human robots’ like ourselves. Such myths may be said to reveal man’s jealousy of the gods. Irked by their aloof supremacy he attempts to uncover the mystery of man-making, and even to usurp their high authority.

But this yearning to be with the gods is not to be confused with man’s dauntless ambition to exercise to the full all that his ingenuity has to offer. The implied dualism in his nature is already apparent in his early twofold role as cave artist and toolmaker.

Stirred in the depths of his being by a divine perturbation, Adam eats of the Tree of Knowledge. His descendants challenge the heavenly powers by erecting a Tower of Babel and, in tombs of sublime arrogance, they ensure for themselves a mummified immortality on the banks of the sacred Nile.

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