Embodiment in 18th Century Depictions of Human-Machine Co-Creativity

Anna Kantosalo*, Michael Falk, Anna Jordanous

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
49 Downloads (Pure)


Artificial intelligence has a rich history in literature; fiction has shaped how we view artificial agents and their capacities in the real world. This paper looks at embodied examples of human-machine co-creation from the literature of the Long 18th Century (1,650–1,850), examining how older depictions of creative machines could inform and inspire modern day research. The works are analyzed from the perspective of design fiction with special focus on the embodiment of the systems and the creativity exhibited by them. We find that the chosen examples highlight the importance of recognizing the environment as a major factor in human-machine co-creative processes and that some of the works seem to precede current examples of artificial systems reaching into our everyday lives. The examples present embodied interaction in a positive, creativity-oriented way, but also highlight ethical risks of human-machine co-creativity. Modern day perceptions of artificial systems and creativity can be limited to some extent by the technologies available; fictitious examples from centuries past allow us to examine such limitations using a Design Fiction approach. We conclude by deriving four guidelines for future research from our fictional examples: 1) explore unlikely embodiments; 2) think of situations, not systems; 3) be aware of the disjunction between action and appearance; and 4) consider the system as a situated moral agent.

Original languageEnglish
Article number662036
Number of pages13
JournalFrontiers in Robotics and AI
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jun 2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • computational creativity
  • creativity
  • design fiction
  • digital humanities
  • embodiment
  • human-machine co-creativity
  • literature


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