The Uncanny nature of Automata

Came across the Baron Von Kempelen who created a device that could play chess. The device includes a table/ desk with the chess board and a figure dressed as a turk seated behind the chess board. Yet, the space below was used to house a person who would guide the chess player, pretty much playing the match.

This was interesting because this false automation attracted many who wanted to pay to see a ‘machine play chess’. The ‘chess player’ challenges this belief that the human intellect can not be simulated. The weekly standards article ‘The dream of Mechanical Life’ describes this essence as cognito, the thinking essence of being human. There is a reference to Freud’s idea of the uncanny. The uncanny being something unknown, usually related to fear. The Chess Player provokes suspicion, and questions this idea of intelligence in Automata, or can this Automated devices in fact become human like. This act of thinking as Descartes asserts as the essence of being, is not present yet appears to be in these devices. Like the writer and the musician of Jaquet-Droz. Freud uses this word uncanny to help explain the feeling we have towards these devices that we know are not real but behave so naturally that they resemble their muse. There seems to be something uncanny in puppets, ventriliquists and Automata. The creep factor perhaps is a fear of the unknown, a fear that certain objects could be alive.

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