To do in Toronto: the Retro Futures exhibit at Metro Reference Library

Toronto's Metro Reference Library is hosting a Retro Futures exhibition until July 28, filled with exhibits from the collection of the Merril Collection (previously), the largest science fiction reference collection in any public library in the world.

The Merril is hosting its own annex to the exhibition at its branch (Lillian H. Smith Branch, 239 College Street, 3rd floor).

Included in the exhibitions: original Buck Rogers cartoons from a 1935 edition of the Toronto Star, collectible Jules Verne cards from 1900; pulp covers illustrating early visions of video-phones, life under domes and rapid transit and much more.

The exhibition accompanies a lecture series on related subjects with talks from Karl Schroeder, Madeline Ashby and Hugh Spencer, and there are guided tours every Tuesday at 2PM.

I am a volunteer on the board of the Toronto Public Library Foundation, which raises money from the USA for collections like the Merril; you can donate here.

Wouldn't it be wonderful to have a mechanical helper who never gets tired or bored? Robots could do all the chores, giving people more time for leisure. Strong metallic bodies and brilliant computerized "brains" make robots ideal protectors and friends. But what are the risks?

The word "robot" comes from a Slavonic word meaning "worker" or "servant". The first story about robots was a play written in 1920 by the Czech writer Karel Capek. Rossum's Universal Robots featured robotic factory workers. In time, they rebelled against their masters.

Fear that robots might get out of control is still a major concern in science fiction. In 1942 Isaac Asimov proposed Three Laws of Robotics to prevent sentient robots from harming humans.

Today's advances in engineering and artificial intelligence have made robotics a reality. We are still a long way from having robot pals like those seen in television shows of the past.

Questions remain. If a machine looks and acts like a human, should it have the same rights and responsibilities as a human? What does it mean to be human?

Retro Futures: Exhibit Digest [David/Toronto Reference Library Blog]

(Thanks, Sephora!)