Monday, November 21, 2005

Reviewed: Doing Likewise with Jonathan Miller and Oliver Sacks

This Saturday a symposium on Doing Likewise was held at the New York Institute of the Humanities, exploring the themes of imitation, impersonation and emulation in animals, robots, children, magic, art, fashion, philosophy and law convened by neurologist and opera director Jonathan Miller. Participants included neurologist Oliver Sacks and sleight-of-hand artist Ricky Jay. Highlights included an astonishing presentation on camouflage in octopi and other cephalopods by Roger Hanlon, work on language mastery in grey parrots by Irene Pepperberg, Ricky Jay's description of the Inimitable Dick, who inspired an explosive proliferation of dancing poodles in 19th century Europe, and Oliver Sacks' extraordinary accounts of compulsive imitation in victims of Tourette's syndrome. Yale roboticist Brian Scassellati and I discussed imitation in robots, including Dirk the Robotic Tramp whom you may have spotted in Dublin in July.


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