Okay, it's still a long way to a true robotic elephant. But who can doubt that it's on the way? Human beings want such things. And we tend to get what we want.
For that matter, who could resist a ride atop the arachnid splendor that is La Machine? (Below.) It, and the elephant, are still essentially articulated parade floats. But a tremendous amount of R&D money is going into robots that can walk, carry guns up mountainsides, and shoot people that we don't like without risking American lives. The earliest spinoffs are likely to be amusement parks rides that can come to your neighborhood.
Sometimes you have to squint a little to see it, but the future is only minutes away.
The Sultan's Elephant is an amazing assemblage and puppet machine thing. When it visited London a few years ago (along with a giant little girl, who arrived via spaceship), Pat Cadigan took a bunch of photos and posted them (with comments) on Flickr; well worth checking out.
I so wanted us to go to Nantes and see the elephant on our recent French holiday, but somehow time and the cost of TGVs conspired against it and it all looked too difficult.
Still - the museum at Nantes is still under construction, and perhaps it will be further along when we finally get there. If you're planning to go to France - and God knows, it's a quicker cheaper flight from America than it is from Australia - you should drop in and give us a report:
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