How ‘robots’ of the Enlightenment era gave us an early glimpse of automation


by Stephanie O’Rourke

The Who’s lead singer Roger Daltrey and his wife Heather are auctioning a selection of rare mechanical devices called automata in Edinburgh, Scotland. Automata are models of people or animals from previous centuries that appear to be moving independently but are actually animated by a hidden clockwork mechanism. They were a form of artificial intelligence that took the world by storm long before the digital age. For too many of us, their fascinating story has been forgotten.

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