PSA: Read The Automation for free on Smashwords

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GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Video of the late Ron Fuller

Read more about Ron on The Automata Blog.

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Short film about Maria and Micheal Start of The House of Automata

Visit their site at The House of Automata.

Or here.

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Nicocurio Instagram Account for Automata and Clockwork Curiosities

 

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Mini doc over Brittany Nicole Cox, antiquarian horologist

Read THE AUTOMATION for free:

Download the PDF for THE AUTOMATION here.

 

Read it for free on Goodreads:

Download it for free on Goodreads.

From ‘Robotics: Hephaestus does it again Inaugural lecture’ by Jean-Paul Laumond

“It was when I was preparing this lecture that I discovered that roboticists have a god: Hephaestus. In Greek mythology, Hephaestus was an ingenious, talented craftsman, known for the remarkable weapons he made. But he also made wheelchairs that moved about on their own (basically, mobile robots) and golden servants that helped him to move about (basically, helper robots), and he even made Pandora, a clay statue to whom Athena gave life. He had a tumultuous love life, as attested by the following passage by Apollodorus, a chronicler from the second century BCE:

Athena visited Hephaistos, wanting to fashion some arms. But Hephaistos, who had been deserted by Aphrodite, yielded to his desire for Athena and began to chase after her, while the goddess for her part tried to escape. When he caught up with her at the expense of much effort (for he was lame), he tried to make love to her. But she, being chaste and a virgin, would not permit it, and he ejaculated over the goddess’s leg. In disgust, she wiped the semen away with a piece of wool and threw it to the ground. As she was fleeing…

While Hephaestus is the god of doing, Athena, who appears here as the one who calls the tune, is the goddess of knowing or —to protect me from reprimands from the exegetes, especially in this assembly— let me consider her as such for the purpose this lecture. Hephaestus was thus seeking to possess Athena. He was unable to do so. Could the doing not aspire to the knowing? A hard blow for the roboticist.

Robotics stems from this tension. Although the myth contradicts a current tendency to confuse science and technology, it does nevertheless reflects my own experience regarding innovation —experience that I might sum up as follows: even though doing is not understanding, understanding enables one to do, but unfortunately, not always. And even though one may very well do without understanding, doing also enables one to have tools —sometimes surprising ones— for understanding.

Hephaestus is starting all over again with new Pandoras. They are no longer of clay, but mecatronic. And they are animated. The roboticist keeps on asking the question of autonomy: what adaptability can we hope to give these new machines? The analogy between humans and machines has to be made23; it cannot be avoided. In the end, does Hephaestus have the keys to knowledge? With his machines that adapt, that “decide” on their actions, what can he tell us about our own “functioning”? The question is both dangerous and beautiful.

Let us bear in mind the image of the myth —and it is only an image, for even if the roboticist can identify with Hephaestus and can shape Pandora out of clay, he is neither Athena nor Geppetto. He will never give any humanity to clay or wood. A robot is a machine controlled by a computer; nothing else. Although animated, it remains and will remain an inanimate object without a soul that becomes attached to our soul [and without] the power of lovei. Let us allow the demi-gods to talk, let us enjoy works by Fritz Lang and Mary Shelley, and let us not be afraid. But are we actually anxious? That is not so sure. In any case, our Japanese friends aren’t, they who are so different from us; they for whom union is possible.”

[Via]

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: B.L.A.’s Twitter Rant About Vulcan’s Representation in American Gods

So BLA recently went on a tangent about how Vulcan is (seemingly going to be) represented in the new American Gods Starz adaptation:

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

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Elizabeth King on Automata

‘An automaton is defined as a machine that contains its own principle of motion. Strictly speaking, a clock is an automaton. The notion of an artificial human figure—an “android” as it has come to be called—derives in part from the tradition of the striking jack in the great medieval town clocks, in which the hour would be sounded by a mechanical figure springing into motion with a hammer and gong. That this employment once fell to a living person, the town watchman suggests that here were our first labor-saving robots. But the animated figure, or moving sculpture, can be traced back to ancient Egypt. “At Thebes accordingly, there were statues that spoke and made gestures. The priests made the heads and arms move by devices not as yet clearly explained” we are told by Egyptologist Alexandre Moret, invoking the same combination of mystery, divine intervention, human ingenuity, and mechanics of deception our own monk exhibits. Theater has always been the partner of religion.

The sixteenth century was a period of tremendous mechanical sophistication: the dawning of the scientific revolution. Clockmaking was to become a profession in its own right, separate from its origin in the blacksmith’s art, and its former association with gun- and locksmithing. Precision timekeeping in centuries to come would become crucial to the world shipping trade for its use in determining navigational longitude. [50] But in its early form, clockmaking was driven less by the problem of measuring time, and more by the astronomer’s efforts to model the locations and motions of “the fixed and moving stars,” that is, to capture the animating principle of the universe.

A significant development—perhaps the significant development—from the medieval town clock, driven by enormous systems of weights, was the emergence of the spiral spring combined with the fusee. A fusee is an ingenious device for making the driving force of a spring constant. Once attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, earlier examples of the fusee have now been found. When wound, a mainspring could now deliver a steady application of tension, rather than a stronger and then progressively weaker force as it ran down.  An early fusee, made of wood, is found in the mechanism of the monk .

The other important development in the mechanical arts was the cam. An ancient device attributed to Archimedes,  the cam reached broad use in the fifteenth century in the striking trains of clocks. A cam is simply a barrel or disk of metal rotated by the gear train. Its outer edge is either studded with short pins, or cut to a calculated profile, and as it turns, one end of a lever, riding against that uneven edge, is set in motion. Called a following arm, the lever translates the cam’s calculated profile into reciprocating movements that can be highly precise and carefully timed. Numbers of such levers can operate for example the spring-tensioned linkages to the monk’s arms, legs, head, eyes. The cam is thus the memory of the machine, and its profile is the analog information base for generating the exact movements of a given part.”

-Elizabeth King,  “A Short History of the Relations Between Machines and Divinity (Deus ex Machina).”

#TBT – NPR and Automatons

“Elizabeth King, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, describes how–according to legend–Philip II held up his end of the bargain with the help of a renowned clockmaker and an intricate invention. Jad and Latif head to the Smithsonian to meet curator Carlene E. Stephens, who shows them the inner workings of a nearly 450-year-old monkbot. ”  [Via]

Listen to Radiolab’s podcast here:

http://www.radiolab.org/story/140632-clockwork-miracle/ 

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Elizabeth King, Sculptor

 

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

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GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Elizabeth King’s “Clockwork Prayer”

“In the history of European clock technology, the monk is an early and very rare example of a self-acting automaton, one whose mechanism is wholly contained and hidden within its body. Its uncanny presence separates it immediately from later automata: it is not charming, it is not a toy, it is “fearfully and wonderfully made,” and it engages even the twentieth-century viewer in a complicated and urgent way. It has duende, the dark spirit Federico García Lorca described. Myself a sculptor, negotiating competing ways of representing human substance and spirit, I wanted to know more about this hypnotic object, and the legend connected to it…

How was the monk used once it was made, who operated it and who would have seen it? Above all, how was it seen, and what beliefs might have been crucial to its effect on spectators? This essay narrates the chronology of my search for answers to these questions. I am not a historian, and I have preferred to let the search itself be visible as a part of my subject. Driven as much by the physical presence of the monk as by the legend of the bedside promise, this work is ultimately an artist’s homage to the human attempt to model an act of the spirit…

The monk is, like all automata, a recording, a kind of artificial memory. What can he tell us?

…In 1980, the Smithsonian changed the name of its National Museum of History and Technology. It would now be called the National Museum of American History. And some changes started to take place, subtle ones at first, but in recent years there have been shifts in institutional priority that have alarmed many historians and scholars. For one thing, the monk, as of December 1997, is now removed from view. The old instrument and timekeeping displays have been redesigned with a new theme in mind: the meaning of time to Americans and its influence on American life. But it isn’t just politics as usual: not only is the monk unAmerican, he slips through all kinds of identification parameters. He isn’t a clock, he isn’t a calculator, he isn’t a sculpture, he isn’t an icon, he isn’t a plaything: he doesn’t fit anywhere! We still don’t know how to look at him. And he troubles us.”

Read the rest.

#TBT – On Automatons

That time we explained the Automatons in THE AUTOMATION, 2014.

“In ancient mythology, Hephaestus/Vulcan created robotic helpmates of animal, human, and monster form. Daedalus created some too, but they were never as dope-ass divine, probably. Probably.

Anyways, there were a few – about ten – of such god-forged creations that didn’t make it into classical mythology (they’re old, but not THAT old). That’s why there’s a new modern epic devoted to them here“.

Tweets of the Week: Clip your wings

#TBT Feline Automata

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

all yellowB&N | Amazon | Etc.

Tweets of the Week: Magpies, I throw sticks at them

“Homer’s description of these metallic ladies as accomplished, smart, and strong has surprisingly modern ring: they are…”

“In ancient Greece and Rome, small female figures made of clay, ivory, and even bone had articulated hands and legs fastened using pins or wire so that they could look animated when shaken or moved. In Greece, the figures were often too fragile to be toys; instead, they were used as votives or offerings to the gods placed in household shrines, temples, burial sites, and graves where they could also be protective devices or prized possessions of the deceased. Young girls offered the doll figures to Apollo, Artemis, and Aphrodite before their marriages to ensure that they would attain a healthy, functioning female body that produced and nourished children, the ideal of ancient Greek femininity.

The Idea of automatons – self-moving female and male figures – had been around since ancient times. The ancient Egyptians produced animated, hot air-driven statues used for religious and political purposes, and in Greece some of the oldest female figures were described in Homer’s epic poem The Iliad where Hephaestus, the blacksmith of the gods (later called Vulcan by the Romans) is helped by two maidservants as he goes about making a shield for Achilles. In Homer’s ancient Greece, women (apart from the great goddesses like Aphrodite and Athena) were largely consigned to loom and family, but Homer’s description of these metallic ladies as accomplished, smart, and strong has surprisingly modern ring: they are

all cast in was gold but a match for living breathing girls / Intelligence fills their hearts, voice, and strength their frames, / From the deathless gods they’ve learned their works of hand. “

From My Fair Ladies by Julie Wosk.

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

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Tweets of the Week: Lovely weather for ducks

Our best tweets:

Tweets of the Week: Ugly Duckling

https://twitter.com/TristinaWright/status/645958061497131008

Tweets of the Week: It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane!

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

all yellow B&N | Amazon | Etc.