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The Spawn of Frankenstein: Fear of the Unknown

It’s not the strange­ness of new tech­nolo­gies that fright­ens us but the way tech­nol­o­gy threat­ens to make us strangers to our­selves. In a semi-Freudian spir­it, then, I’d like to pro­pose that where Frankenstein and its spawn are con­cerned, our fear of the unknown may real­ly be about our dis­com­fort with know­ing.

The Spawn of Frankenstein: Unintended Consequences

Victor’s sin wasn’t in being too ambi­tious, not nec­es­sar­i­ly in play­ing God. It was in fail­ing to care for the being he cre­at­ed, fail­ing to take respon­si­bil­i­ty and to provide the crea­ture what it need­ed to thrive, to reach its poten­tial, to be a pos­i­tive devel­op­ment for soci­ety instead of a dis­as­ter.

The Spawn of Frankenstein: It’s Alive

Mary Shelley’s nov­el has been an incred­i­bly suc­cess­ful mod­ern myth. And so this con­ver­sa­tion today is not just about what hap­pened 200 years ago, but the remark­able ways in which that moment and that set of ideas has con­tin­ued to per­co­late and evolve and reform in cul­ture, in tech­no­log­i­cal research, in ethics, since then.

The Spawn of Frankenstein: Playing God

In Shelley’s vision, Frankenstein was the mod­ern Prometheus. The hip, up to date, learned, vital god who chose to cre­ate human life and paid the dire con­se­quences. To Shelley, gods cre­ate and for humans to do that is bad. Bad for oth­ers but espe­cial­ly bad for one’s cre­ator.

Our Faces

The French philoso­pher Immanuel Levinas has taught us that it is through our inter­ac­tions with the face of some­body else, it is through encoun­ter­ing the face of anoth­er, that our respon­si­bil­i­ties to some­one else arise. You can­not look at some­body else, tru­ly look at them, and then walk away with­out hav­ing some kind of sense of a rela­tion­ship towards that per­son. But what if the oth­er has no face? What then? Or what if the face of the oth­er is actu­al­ly the face of anoth­er per­son entire­ly?

Seeing Eternity in a Daffodil: Making Robots, Making Life

In this talk I want to sug­gest that it’s nev­er quite as sim­ple as to say there is tech­nol­o­gy and there is art. That there is tech­nol­o­gy and there is cul­ture. Clearly the­se things have always been in dia­logue and are still. So this means this is a sto­ry about art and tech­nol­o­gy.

Policing the Romantic Crowd; Velocipedes and Face Recognition

We have to be care­ful about dis­tin­guish­ing between mere analo­gies link­ing the Romantic peri­od to our own age that may­be don’t have any use­ful analogs, and those that do have some con­tin­ued oper­a­tional rel­e­vance. Because it is the case that Romantic writ­ers like John Keats, Mary Shelley, William Wordsworth, philo­soph­i­cal­ly mod­eled and to some extent thought through many of the debates and issues that we’re cur­rent­ly hav­ing as we seek to shape the con­tours of our future soci­eties.

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