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Women in STEM - Mary Shelley

In honor of National Science Fiction Day, we turn our Women in STEM Sunday focus on Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein.

The Story of Frankenstein’s Monster

Mary Shelley created the story of Dr. Frankenstein after being dared to craft a frightening ghost tale on a trip to Geneva, Switzerland in 1818, but she accomplished far more than that.

Her story, focused around a doctor who reanimates a compilation of corpses that becomes an unstoppable murderous creature, has captivated people for over 200 years.

Not only has Frankenstein’s monster become one of the most popular characters in history, but the story has been retold and reimagined in thousands of ways through many different mediums. It was even recently added to the top 100 most influential novels by the BBC.

But Frankenstein is not simply one of the greatest science fiction tales of all time - it has long been considered the quintessential cautionary tale for the dangers of unrestrained scientific and technological advancement.

Frankenstein and Technology

Mary Shelley and her scientific nightmare deposited some of the first ideas of “inhuman” intelligence and what the implications might be if we are able to create technologies which move beyond our own human nature.

This is precisely why some technologists and engineers want to make sure we’re keeping humans at the core of our development, and urge us to always consider the societal implications of our programming. Recently, some former engineers of the social media platforms have cautioned against the impacts of the very products they’ve helped bring to market. Some, like Elon Musk, are so worried about the possible problems, they are preparing for planetary evacuation if our advancement ever gets too out of control.

So as we enter a time in our history when the fields of Artificial Intelligence and BioEngineering are accelerating at an incredible pace, it’s hard not to look back 200 years on Mary’s account of “the monster” and hope that science fiction never becomes science fact.

To learn more about Mary Shelley:

And here’s a recent Stanford Discussion on what Frankenstein can teach us today:

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