I also caught up with Ayse Saygin who works on social robotics and told me all about the weird flowers currently blooming in the ravine where she lives. I like her approach because she combines top flight brain research with the spookier end of practical robotics, for example with Hiroshi Ishiguro. To a large extent artificial intelligence is in the eye of the beholder. Understanding what makes a human decide something is intelligent will always be an important part of the story.

Being a thoughtful sort she pointed me at a short story called The Sand-Man by ETA Hoffman. It was written in German in 1816 and you can read a translation here. It has an automaton who passes as human and a sudden outbreak of paranoia leading to gentlemen demanding that their lovers prove they’re not puppets.