An amusing story, the truth of which I am uncertain.

Roger Bacon was said to have built a mechanical head that worked from a clockwork like mechanism that could think and act, but not speak. Weary of hacking for the night, he decided to go to sleep, but he told his apprentice to immediately wake him up if the head did anything. A little later, the head spoke, and it said, "Time is." The apprentice was too afraid to wake Bacon up, however, and so he didn't do anything about it. A bit after that, the head spoke again, saying, "Time was." Again, the apprentice was much too afraid to awake his master. The head then spoke a third time, this time saying, "Time past." The head then proceeded to blow up. Finally, the apprentice was freaked out enough to wake Bacon up. Unfortunately, Bacon could not repair the head, and it never worked in any capacity again.

What do you suppose Bacon did to his apprentice?

And the moral of the story is: sleep is the adversary, and you should never trust anything important to your apprentice (I know I never do).
As I read George Dyson's excellent book (Darwin Among the Machines) it seems that this is only partly the full history. The rest of the fable concerns the information that the head would provide; a means to build a 'wall of brass' around England (yeah. Like that would work!).

Anyway, this mechanical head was also reported as the construct of Pope Silvester II - who 'helped introduce Arabic numerals and arithemetic into Europe' as well as making a 'steam-driven organ' and 'mechanical clocks'. Interestingly, for the conclusions drawn in the other writeup, the apprentice (Miles) took the piss most righteously with the head : "Do you tell us Copper-nose when TIME IS?" and "Thou Brazen-faced head, hath my master took all this pains about thee, and now dost thou requite him with two words : TIME IS?"

Clearly, the apprentice was messing around - let this be further warning. On a related note, there is a sentance in the chapter that is particularly apposite for E2:

"...the warning of the head goes unheeded as we stand transfixed, like monkeys given a mirror, by the novelty of our own image reflected in the surface of the web."

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.