Eating and Dying to be human


“I am designing a system for allowing androids-myself-to gain energy from the combustion of hydrocarbons, rather than atomic cells.”

Paul raised his eyebrows. “So they will breathe and eat?”


“How long have you been pushing in that direction?”

“For a long time now, but I think I have designed an adequate combustion chamber for catalyzed controlled breakdown.”

“But why, Andrew? The atomic cell is surely infinitely better.”

“In some ways, perhaps, but the atomic cell is inhuman.”

In previous post, I had written about the Golem’s pretense of eating in order to prove her humanity in the Golem and the Jinni by Helen Wecker. Another sci-fi classic version of the same pretense can be found in Isaac Asimov’s Bicentiennial Man, a story of transformation from robot to human that involves creativity, clothing, digestion, breathing and eventually death. Eating is the privilege of the living, organic and artificial, as the story suggests. Everyday, we limit or qualify our energy source, our food. Why don’t we all just take an efficient nutrition pill to sustain ourselves? (Our poor dog has been placed under a diet. He’s been extra needy. He really likes chicken and treats.) Anyway, back to our persistent effort to spice up, gluten free, sweeten, bake, fry, blend, season and plate our source of energy. If we put so much thought into what we put into our (and our pets) bodies as fuel, why don’t we worry about the energy we put into our lamps, heaters, cars, phones…all our stuff? Is it because our phones can’t taste or like chicken as Oreo the dog does? If my toaster worked better with one source of energy versus another would we care? Does the source of energy effect performance of things? I don’t know. Again…I digress. Asimov was on to something and anticipated this post-humanist era of thinking beyond the artificial/organic divide. I wonder if Andrew the prosthetic human ate meat?

As we approach the decadent and delicious feast of Thanksgiving, I wonder how could I feed my stove, refrigerator, stand mixer, blender? How can I show my appreciation for all my primitive robots that make a tasty dinner possible?

Thoughts? Questions? Comments?

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