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Dan Ariely
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Ike Chuang
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Cynthia Breazeal

Cynthia Breazeal I am a creature builder. My passion is to create lifelike robots that are decidedly not human, yet possess human qualities. Their social and emotional intelligence are of particular interest, as these qualities are at the very core of our humanity, which allows us to share our lives in deep and meaningful ways.

The emerging discipline of creature building is equal parts science, invention, and art, with a dash of philosophy. I strive to build robots that relate to us—and engage us—as capable partners that can cooperate and learn with us. I see these robots of the future as a companion species that collaborate with us to enrich the many different facets of our lives, rather than as mere tools to help us get work done.

I build these creatures to question our ideas of what it means to be human, and by doing so, to force us to think beyond our flesh and biological makeup to those qualities we cherish in our species. I build them to challenge our notion of machines. I build them to reflect upon how our brains and bodies work—and at the same time to humble us, and to remind us just how remarkable these gifts are. I build them to illuminate how we relate to and learn from each other, and how important this is for shaping each others' lives, and shaping the people we become.

I find this to be of profound importance at a time in our history when we can start to tinker seriously with the fabric of our being, whether it is through manipulating our biological material or merging our bodies with technological devices. It is important in a time when our understanding of how our mind and body function tempts us to treat each other as "just machines," and when our machines are becoming more and more like us. As the boundary between ourselves and our machines blurs to the unperceivable, our notions of what makes us special—what makes us human—may very well need to extend beyond simply "being born" that way.

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Favorite recent read: The Diamond Age, by Neal Stephenson
Copyright 2003 MIT Media Laboratory; Image Ryan Kavanagh