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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > February 2017 > Recommends Science

Recommends Science

Robots: The 500-Year Quest to Make Machines Human

Science Museum, London, Opens 8th February

In the 16th century, King Phillip II of Spain promised God a miracle in exchange for his son’s recovery from illness. The king duly delivered: he commissioned a renowned clockmaker to build a mechanised monk, with moving parts. The slightly creepy “monkbot” is one of the world’s earliest known robots, the on-trend issue for the Science Museum’s blockbuster exhibition of the year. We have long sought to make machines more humanoid—for me, the irony is that the machines that truly shape the world, such as newsfeed algorithms, are formless and largely invisible.

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In Prospect’s February issue: Tom Clark and Luke Harding examine the attacks facing democracy. Clark reviews two books on democracy and suggests a new intellectual assault may be on the horizon. Harding looks at Russia’s attempts to derail the democratic process by focussing on its technical frailty. Melissa Deckman asks why women voted for Trump, while Duncan Bell charts the story of the Anglosphere and suggests Brexiteers are indulging in an old fantasy. Also in this issue: Matthew Harries asks if it’s time to ban the nuclear bomb, Adam Mars-Jones looks at the way we perceive aliens in films and Elizabeth Pisani explores the role of activists in changing the perception of Aids and its pushing for treatment.