An Artificial History of Natural Intelligence: Thinking with Machines from Descartes to the Digital Age


A new history of human intelligence that argues that humans know themselves by knowing their machines.

We imagine that we are both in control of and controlled by our bodies—autonomous and yet automatic. This entanglement, according to David W. Bates, emerged in the seventeenth century when humans first built and compared themselves with machines. Reading varied thinkers from Descartes to Kant to Turing, Bates reveals how time and time again technological developments offered new ways to imagine how the body’s automaticity worked alongside the mind’s autonomy. Tracing these evolving lines of thought, An Artificial History of Natural Intelligence offers a new theorization of the human as a being that is dependent on technology and produces itself as an artificial automaton without a natural, outside origin.

Publication date: 
April 5, 2024
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