Past visions of Artificial Futures: one hundred and fifty years under the spectre of evolving machines

Tim Taylor, Alan Dorin

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference PaperResearchpeer-review

Abstract

The influence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Artificial Life (ALife) technologies upon society, and their potential to fundamentally shape the future evolution of humankind, are topics very much at the forefront of current scientific, governmental and public debate. While these might seem like very modern concerns, they have a long history that is often disregarded in contemporary discourse. Insofar as current debates do acknowledge the history of these ideas, they rarely look back further than the origin of the modern digital computer age in the 1940s–50s. In this paper we explore the earlier history of these concepts. We focus in particular on the idea of self-reproducing and evolving machines, and potential implications for our own species. We show that discussion of these topics arose in the 1860s, within a decade of the publication of Darwin’s The Origin of Species, and attracted increasing interest from scientists, novelists and the general public in the early 1900s. After introducing the relevant work from this period, we categorise the various visions presented by these authors of the future implications of evolving machines for humanity. We suggest that current debates on the co-evolution of society and technology can be enriched by a proper appreciation of the long history of the ideas involved.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationConference on Artificial Life 2018
Subtitle of host publicationA Hybrid of the European Conference on Artificial Life (ECAL) and the International Conference on the Synthesis and Simulation of Living Systems (ALIFE)
EditorsTakashi Ikegami, Nathaniel Virgo, Olaf Witkowski, Mizuki Oka, Reiji Suzuki, Hiroyuki Iizuka
Place of PublicationCambridge MA USA
PublisherThe MIT Press
Pages91-98
Number of pages8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018
EventConference on Artificial Life 2018 - Tokyo, Japan
Duration: 23 Jul 201827 Jul 2018
http://2018.alife.org/

Conference

ConferenceConference on Artificial Life 2018
Abbreviated titleALIFE 2018
CountryJapan
CityTokyo
Period23/07/1827/07/18
Internet address

Keywords

  • self-reproduction
  • Evolvable hardware

Cite this

Taylor, T., & Dorin, A. (2018). Past visions of Artificial Futures: one hundred and fifty years under the spectre of evolving machines. In T. Ikegami, N. Virgo, O. Witkowski, M. Oka, R. Suzuki, & H. Iizuka (Eds.), Conference on Artificial Life 2018: A Hybrid of the European Conference on Artificial Life (ECAL) and the International Conference on the Synthesis and Simulation of Living Systems (ALIFE) (pp. 91-98). The MIT Press. https://doi.org/10.1162/isal_a_00022