Catherine Liu: Copying Machines. Taking Notes for the Automaton, 2000

This work is a sustained examination of the automaton as early modern machine, and curious ancestor of the twentieth-century robot, who slaves away at the assembly line of being, sustaining the most precious fantasies of our humanity, while entertaining us with nightmares of the treachery of others. (…) The automaton is a preindustrial, nonproductive machine that still has a relationship to the machines of the Ancients. It inspires both automation and mass production, but it ends up as one of the Industrial Revolution’s mechanical victims. Its obsolescence is guaranteed by the virtual impossibility of its mass reproduction. The suspicion of the machine, as it is manifested in critical, literary, and philosophical works that we will examine, is not something that can be easily undone, nor should it be. The Enlightenment promulgated two machines: one represented an image of soullessness; the other was sublimated into the very structure of its own ambitions of encyclopedic and instrumentalizing systematicity.

Liu, Catherine. Copying Machines: Taking Notes for the Automaton. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2000.