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Artificial Soul

30 minutes
First broadcast:
Sunday 10 November 2013

As robots become more human-like, John McCarthy asks whether there is any aspect of humanity that could never be programmed into a machine.

Experts from the informatics department of King's College, London, reflect on the possibility of developing artificial emotions, morality and creativity. Will there come a time when it will be impossible to tell a machine from its maker?

The programme includes extracts from the first work of fiction about robots, by the Czech playwright Karel Capek, as well as more recent imaginings by Isaac Asimov.

William James, Andrew Marvell and Richard Dawkins muse on the nature of self, soul and culture.

We hear computer-generated music, as well as compositions by Stockhausen, Wasifuddin Dagar and Regina Spektor.

Readers: Michael Colgan and Sarah Lawrie.

Producer: Jo Fidgen.
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

Music Played

7 items
  • Image for Karlheinz Stockhausen

    Karlheinz Stockhausen Kontakte Part 1

    Performers: David Tudor; Christoph Caskel; Karlheinz Stockhausen; Gottfried Michael Koenig

    Kontakte, Wergo, 286009-2, 1

  • Image for Maurice Ravel

    Maurice Ravel Bolero

    The Classic Experience (1988), EMI, EMTVD 45, 3

  • Image for Richard Strauss

    Richard Strauss Also Sprach Zarathustra

    Star Wars and Other Galactic Themes, EMI, GBAYE7200192

  • Image for Karl Bartos

    Karl Bartos The Robots (Edited Version)

    Perfomer: Kraftwerk

    The Man-Machine, EMI

  • Image for London Symphony Orchestra, Melomics Ensemble

    London Symphony Orchestra, Melomics Ensemble Alphard

    Performer: London Symphony Orchestra, Melomics Ensemble

    Iamus, Melomics Records, B00AW079XY

  • Image for Wasifuddin Dagar (vocals); Mohan Shyam Sharma (Pakhawaj); Ms. Laurence Bastit (Tanpura)

    Wasifuddin Dagar (vocals); Mohan Shyam Sharma (Pakhawaj); Ms. Laurence Bastit (Tanpura) Jor / Jhalla

    Raga Chandrakauns, Dhrupad, Sense World Music, GVL LC 13611

  • Image for Regina Spektor

    Regina Spektor Machine

    Performer: Regina Spektor

    Far, Sire, USWB10901897, 5

  • Readings

    Title: The Stream of Consciousness
    Author: William James
    First published in Psychology, Chapter XI (Cleveland & New York, World).

    Title: The Garden
    Author: Andrew Marvell
    Collection: The Broadview Anthology of British Literature, Volume 2 - The Renaissance and the Early Seventeenth Century
    Editor: Joseph Black et al.
    Publisher: Broadview Press, 2006
    ISBN: 1-55111-610-3

    Title: R.U.R.
    Author: Karel Capek
    Translator: P. Selver
    Publisher: OUP, London, 1961 (first printed 1923).

    Title: “An Enjoyable Game”: How HAL Plays Chess
    Author: Murray S. Campbell
    Collection: HAL’s Legacy: 2001’s Computer as Dream and Reality (Editor: David Stork)
    Publisher: Cambridge, MA and London: The MIT Press, 1997.
    ISBN: 0-262-19378-7

    Title: The Selfish Gene
    Author: Richard Dawkins
    Publisher: OUP
    ISBN: 0-19-286092-5

    Title: Robot Dreams
    Author: Isaac Asimov
    Publisher: Victor Gollancz, 1987.
    ISBN: 0-575-04021-1


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