Book ID: CBB892284362

Gods and Robots: Myths, Machines, and Ancient Dreams of Technology (2018)


Mayor, Adrienne (Author)

Princeton University Press

Publication Date: 2018
Physical Details: 304 pp.
Language: English

The fascinating untold story of how the ancients imagined robots and other forms of artificial life―and even invented real automated machinesThe first robot to walk the earth was a bronze giant called Talos. This wondrous machine was created not by MIT Robotics Lab, but by Hephaestus, the Greek god of invention. More than 2,500 years ago, long before medieval automata, and centuries before technology made self-moving devices possible, Greek mythology was exploring ideas about creating artificial life―and grappling with still-unresolved ethical concerns about biotechne, “life through craft.” In this compelling, richly illustrated book, Adrienne Mayor tells the fascinating story of how ancient Greek, Roman, Indian, and Chinese myths envisioned artificial life, automata, self-moving devices, and human enhancements―and how these visions relate to and reflect the ancient invention of real animated machines.As early as Homer, Greeks were imagining robotic servants, animated statues, and even ancient versions of Artificial Intelligence, while in Indian legend, Buddha’s precious relics were defended by robot warriors copied from Greco-Roman designs for real automata. Mythic automata appear in tales about Jason and the Argonauts, Medea, Daedalus, Prometheus, and Pandora, and many of these machines are described as being built with the same materials and methods that human artisans used to make tools and statues. And, indeed, many sophisticated animated devices were actually built in antiquity, reaching a climax with the creation of a host of automata in the ancient city of learning, Alexandria, the original Silicon Valley.A groundbreaking account of the earliest expressions of the timeless impulse to create artificial life, Gods and Robots reveals how some of today’s most advanced innovations in robotics and AI were foreshadowed in ancient myth―and how science has always been driven by imagination. This is mythology for the age of AI.

Reviewed By

Review Teun Koetsier (2019) Review of "Gods and Robots: Myths, Machines, and Ancient Dreams of Technology". Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences (pp. 810-811). unapi

Review Henderson, Georgina J. (October 2019) Review of "Gods and Robots: Myths, Machines, and Ancient Dreams of Technology". Technology and Culture (pp. 1100-1101). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Mayor, Adrienne
Tortora, Guiseppe
Calzarossa, Maria
Kosch, Harold
Cigola, Michela
Caprari, Gilles
Endeavour: Review of the Progress of Science
Earth Sciences History: Journal of the History of the Earth Sciences Society
Ziran Kexueshi Yanjiu (Studies in the History of Natural Sciences)
Estudios Clásicos, Órgano de la Sociedad Española de Estudios Clásicos
Apeiron: Journal for Ancient Philosophy and Science
History of the Human Sciences
Oxford University Press
Palgrave Macmillan
Princeton University Press
Universita degli Studi di Milano (Italy)
Artificial life
Automata; robotics; cyborgs
Technology and culture
Theophrastos of Eresos
Haraway, Donna Jeanne
Heron of Alexandria
Linnaeus, Carolus
Time Periods
18th century
Early modern
17th century
21st century

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