Here’s a fantastic new piece from James at The Verge, featuring a few quotes from this digital anthropologist I know…

A desire to project agency and intelligence onto inanimate matter, though, is deeply human, says Beth Singler, a digital anthropologist at the University of Cambridge. “You don’t have to go as far as Ameca has with facial features before people start bringing animated entities into what I call their cosmology of potential beings,” she tells The Verge. “There’s this sense that what is around us could be intelligence, and different cultures react to that in different ways.”

Traditions like Shinto and Buddhism are more open about this impulse to ascribe soul to objects, says Singler, but the same instincts run deep in the West. “We like to think we’re immune to this because we had the Enlightenment and became very serious and rational,” she says. “But I don’t see that. When I see people’s interactions with animated technological entities — and that can be everything from a robot to a Roomba — I see that same animistic tendency.” In other words: we still want to believe.

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