By Anita Law
The Humanities at Stanford
What do human beings and machines have in common?
Stanford historian Jessica Riskin argues that philosophical debates stretching back to the 17th century have profoundly shaped current ideas in the life sciences about what makes a living thing alive – and what makes it act and change.
For centuries, philosophers and scientists have regularly compared living things to machines, but they have meant very different things by the word "machine," according to Riskin, a professor of history who writes about these issues in her new book, The Restless Clock.
Riskin investigates the history of lifelike machines and the philosophical and theological debates surrounding them, and explores how...