What Golems and Robots Have in Common

In Jewish folklore there’s a thing called a golem — a creature created by magic to serve its creator. There are lots of variations on the golem story, but the way I learned it goes like this: to bring a golem to life you form it out of dirt and then walk around it several […]

In Defense of Bad Robots

The robots are coming. You know this. You’ve read the headlines, you’ve seen the movies. Her, Ex Machina, Terminator. You’ve seen the sleek, lithe, brilliant bots of the future. They’re sexy, even the ones that aren’t explicitly meant to be. We fear them, we’re drawn to them. Look at that smooth glass, that chrome, that unparalleled intellect, […]

Marvin and The System

We live with machines. And our machines are getting smarter. They’re still very dumb, they do what we tell them to, and often not really all that well. But we’re teaching them. And I do mean “we.” When you tag your friends on Facebook, you’re teaching its facial recognition system what to look for in […]

Saving Time

** The study was published earlier this month in Nature Methods. Many thanks to Andrea Facheris of Soundtrack4u for granting permission to use the music in the video. The song is called “Symphony 5” (a reworking of Beethoven’s), by the Robot Symphony Orchestra.

Synthetic biology and weapons of war

A few years ago, Eric Klavins found himself starting at the ceiling of his room in the Athenaeum, a private lodging on the grounds of the California Institute of Technology, in the middle of the night. Unable to sleep, Klavins found himself pondering a question that had been posed to him earlier that day at […]

Body and Soul

I just wrote a story about robots whose brains are based on the neural networks of real creatures (mostly cats, rats and monkeys). Researchers put these ‘brains’ in an engineered body — sometimes real, sometimes virtual — equipped with sensors for light and sound and touch. Then they let them loose into the world — […]