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(A variation on this theme is poor

Hubert, the software duplicate of

Yorick, in “Where Am I?”)


The real-life but still-in-the-future

and hence still strictly science-

fictional—Cog, the huma-noid robot

being constructed by Rodney Brooks,

Lynn Stein, and the Cog team at

MIT’. Cog’s brain is all silicon chips

from the outset, and its body parts

are inorganic artifacts. Yet it is

designed to go through an embodied

infancy and childhood, reacting to

people that it sees with its video

eyes, making friends, learning about

the world by playing with real things

with its real hands, and acquiring

memory, If Cog ever grows up, it

could surely abandon its body and

make the transition described in the

fictional cases. It would be easier for

Cog, who has always been a silicon-

based, digitally encoded intelligence,

to move into a silicon-based vat than

it would be for Max Headroom or

Robocop, who spent their early years

in wetware. Many important details

of Cog’s degree of humanoidness

(humanoidity?) have not yet been

settled, but the scope is wide. For

instance, the team now plans to

give Cog a virtual neuroendocrine

system, with virtual hormones

spreading and dissipating through

its logical spaces.


Blade Runner in a vat

has never

had a real humanoid body, but has




of having had one.

This entirely bogus

past life has been


by some


complex and

detailed programming.


Clarke’s own scenario

, as best it can

be extrapolated from the book and

the movie. HAL, has never had a

body and has no illusions about his

past. What he knows of human life

he knows as either part of his innate

heritage (coded, one gathers, by the

labors of many programmers, after

the fashion of the real-world CYC

project of Douglas Lenat or a result

of his subsequent training—a sort

of bedridden infancy, one gathers,

in which he was both observer and,

eventually, participant. (In the

book, Clarke speaks of “the perfect

idiomatic English he had learned

during the fleeting weeks of his

electronic childhood.”)

Blade Runner agent’s Deckard between Nexus 6’s Roy Batty and Pris.