Showing posts from August, 2008

The Girl With No Eyes

[originally published July 2003] William Gibson may regret coining the term cyberspace in his 1984 novel Neuromancer . He received acclaim with the world of the Sprawl, which he created in the short story Johnny Mnemonic . But it was one well-tuned phrase, jacked into a custom cyberspace deck that projected his disembodied consciousness into the consensual hallucination that was the matrix, that helped win him the science-fiction triple crown: the Hugo, the Nebula, and the Philip K. Dick awards. Now he can't get away from cyberspace, like an actor typecast by a too-successful performance in a role he may no longer love. In this installment of Biblio Tech, we return to cyberpunk, which was very hot in the 1980s and retained considerable power throughout the 1990s. In the first decade of the 21st century, cyberpunk conjures much less, so this is an excellent time to give it a thoughtful look. Specifically, we'll explore a particular theme of Gibson's -- namely, what distingu

Hey, Robot!

[originally published May 2003] What area of research, development, and commercial activity owes more of its existence to the arts than robotics does? The word itself comes from an early 20th-century play; less than a decade later, an important film introduced an enduring fantasy concept of what robots look like. Shortly after that, but still before much significant technical research or development occurred in the field, science-fiction writers developed complex theories of robot behavior in stories that are still in print today. In this installment of Biblio Tech, we'll look at some of the arts that have shaped our notions of robots. We will see the deep roots these stories have in far earlier concepts that have little to do with engineering but everything to do with the human race's fascination with creation. R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots) In 1920, Karel Capek completed his play, R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots); its first production in 1921 brought Capek worl