Ancient robot

Robots and artificial intelligence have the origins of ancient myths

The word “robot” was not coined until 1920, when the Czech playwright Karel Špik used it in the play RUor Rossumofi Univerzální Robotic (Rossum’s global robots In English). Robots – or things like them – have been in myth (and to some extent, reality) for thousands of years.

Robots in mythology

Ismail ibn al-Razzaz al-Jazari, an engineer born in the twelfth century in what is now Turkey, designed and built many intricate machines, including fountains and a water-operated alarm clock—and even wrote a book on the science of their construction: The book of knowledge of the genius mechanical devices. But it is possible that he has Robot Which has caused some to call him the “Father of Robots”. These included a girl serving a tea-spouting mechanic and a quartet of robots that play several different tones and can be “programmed” to play different rhythms.

Among the countless stories we know from myths and folklore, we can find the clearest hints about modern robots and artificial intelligence software. For example, in Jewish folklore, the golem He is a clay man who magically gives life when words are put into the mouth of a golem. Just like in the file AI programs with a large linguistic model that amazes us today, and even manages it To convince some people that they are conscious, Language is animation – the component that turns a clay statue into an object.

But the robots in the myth go back even further. In her book 2018 Gods and Robots: The Myths, Machines, and Ancient Dreams of TechnologyAdrienne Mayor describes how ancient cultures explored the idea of ​​artificial life. The ancient Greeks were skilled in metalwork and mechanics and created a great deal of automated machinery, including a puppet theater that could perform an entire play. These devices seem to have inspired generations of storytellers.

Hephaestus, the Greek god of metalworking and technology, produced fantastic weapons for the gods, but he also built a variety of beings that the mayor describes as “a creature that was not born.” In the The Iliad, Homer tells of how Hephaestus made maids of gold to help him with his formation. Previous stories tell of Hephaestus’ other creations, Talos, a giant mechanical man made of bronze, Mayor wrote, “the first ‘robot’ to walk on Earth.” Talos tirelessly patrolled the shores of Crete to protect the island from invasion.

Talos’ role was to protect humans. But another artificial life form for Hephaestus was intended only for the opposite purpose. After the Titan Prometheus gave humans the gift of fire, Zeus was enraged. To avenge the humans for accepting this gift, he commissions Hephaestus to make out of clay a beautiful woman, Pandora – a magical creation that the mayor calls “Vim Pot”. Pandora was sent to Earth, with an urn (in some translations this became a chest), to be the wife of Epimetheus, Prometheus’ brother. Although Prometheus had warned Epimetheus against accepting gifts from Zeus, Epimetheus took Pandora as his wife, but prevented her from opening the jar.

With that said, Willy Zeus had already commanded it (or you might say, programmer her) to open the jar. When I finally did, all the ills that afflicted mankind—sickness, old age, madness, famine—and all sorts of suffering and troubles had vanished.

What can these myths teach us?

Although gods and magic often participate in creations such as Talos and Pandora, Mayor argues that these ancient robots were not summoned into existence by mere command of a god. “These artificial objects were seen as manufactured products of technology, designed and built from scratch using the same materials and methods that human artisans used to make tools, artwork, buildings, and sculptures.” She wrote that these stories were something like “old thought experiments, and ‘what if’ scenarios.”

Today, our robots are real. But we’re still working on finding plenty of “what ifs” — and these ancient myths can help us do just that. Mayor Stephen Hawking and others who have warned us about the dangers of artificial intelligence compare Prometheus, who warned of the dangers of accepting gifts from the gods. But this warning was there all along. We just need to read the ancient legends to find it.

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