Their faces, if that’s what you can call them, stare out from the display cases, imploring you to imagine that they are still alive, telling you the stories of their lives from all that time ago. You know that these are relics of the past, from a time before evolution had shaped the common features that everyone recognises, the delicate noses, the deep eye sockets, the curved forehead.
You know this and are comforted by it. These faces belong to a bygone age when things were less civilised.
Then one of them moves.
Its eyes open wide and a perfectly pitched voice says “Well, hello there! Aren’t you a shiny, happy person?”
When I go to the Natural History Museum in London, and gaze at my ancestors’ skulls, I find it a little disconcerting. These were real people once, from the dawn of human time, from before we as a species started to mess things up properly.
The row of old robots I found in the Science Museum in London were a mixture of the scarily realistic and the just plain creepy. And one was a movie star, so not a ‘real’ robot at all.
One day, you might imagine these machines (and their descendants) being in the Natural History Museum, with some cyborgic entity laughing at how primitive their ancestors looked and how they seemed so ape-like, before heading off to recharge “the ol’ batteries” (possibly literally) at one of the museum’s cafés.
“Robots – The 500-year Quest to make machine Human” is on at the Science Museum London until 3rd September 2017 or until a robot army liberates the exhibits.