Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Machina sapiens

On February 26, 2007 I wrote a blog article whose title was What's in a name? [Click here to display it.] I mentioned the fact that, in 1976, I wrote a book in French called Machina sapiens on the subject of artificial intelligence. I went on to express my mild irritation concerning the fact that many people are now using that expression without ever acknowledging that it was the title of my book.

Many years ago in Paris, at a big international computer fair, I approached the stand of a Canadian company named Machina sapiens and asked them where they had dug up their name. One of their managers was pleased to offer me explanations.

Manager: "Some time ago, there was a best-seller named Machina sapiens written by a Frenchman."

Me: "Not a Frenchman. An Australian. I wrote that book."

The guy looked embarrassed, but I'm not sure he believed me. What the hell. I've never claimed that I own that expression. I believe that the true inventor of the expression was the distinguished biophysicist Walter Rosenblith [1913-2002], who was the provost of MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology] when I interviewed him in 1972 for my TV specials on artificial intelligence and brain research.

This morning, I received a friendly comment from a lady in Argentina who uses Machina sapiens as the name of her blog. At first, I didn't see why somebody would assume I knew enough Spanish to be able to read a comment in this language. Then I remembered that a translation of my book had been published in Buenos Aires in 1978.

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