As robots grow more lifelike, and religious faith in our uniqueness wanes, it is a challenge to understand what it means to be mortal

Perhaps the best way to think of what makes a human being human is to look at something that seems almost human and subtract the difference. Whatever is left over is what is unique to us. That seems to be the thinking behind the Finnish photographer Maija Tammi’s One of Them Is a Human #1, a portrait of Erica, the Japanese android who was declared the most realistic female human robot of 2016. The photograph caused a stir last week because it was shortlisted for the National Portrait Gallery’s prestigious Taylor Wessing prize, despite the rule that “all photographs must have been taken by the entrant from life and with a living sitter”.

Related: Why the rise of the robots could allow humans to flourish again | Giles Fraser: Loose canon

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