By Adelheid Voskuhl
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Additional resources for Androids in the Enlightenment: Mechanics, Artisans, and Cultures of the Self
Notwithstanding this, scholars have used automata to conceptualize problems of mass culture, industrial culture, and the perils of modernity. Such ideas render Enlightenment automata more modern than they are. They turn them into symbols for concerns about industrial modernity and neglect to take sufﬁciently into account their eighteenthcentury roots. The assumptions that I listed accompany the automaton all the way to the end of the twentieth century, and they are crucial to our understanding of androids and our ways of using them to understand the human condition in the industrial world.
1214–1294); and Regiomontanus (1436–1476), are alleged to have built or owned automaton-like devices. Magnus’s “Iron Man” worked as a guard at his door, asking visitors about their requests and then deciding, upon their answer, whether or not to grant them entrance. Although descriptions of this automaton are scarce and vary greatly, there is some consistency in the legend according to which Thomas Aquinas, Magnus’s favorite pupil, demolished the automaton. Some sources say it was because the automaton’s constant babbling disrupted Thomas’s work; others report that Thomas recognized Satan himself in the automaton.
19. Jessica Riskin, in “Defecating Duck,” 610, calls eighteenth-century automata “mechanical experiments,” naming Jacques de Vaucanson the founder of this approach. She also explicitly mentions the “epistemological utility” of Vaucanson’s ﬂute player (616). Martin Lister shares the view that automata simulated mechanistic physiology. , New Media, 325. David Brewster and Hermann von Helmholtz emphasized in the mid-nineteenth century the same epistemic purpose. Brewster, Letters, 269; Helmholtz, Wechselwirkung, 6.