Thousands of years ago, the ancient Greeks were not only renowned for their incredible architecture, mighty warriors, and revolutionary thinkers, but they also seemed to have an uncanny ability to foresee the future. Surprisingly, some of their predictions included technologies that we use today, such as self-driving cars, artificial intelligence (AI), and even killer robots. Historian Dr. Adrienne Mayor explores these intriguing predictions in her book, “Gods and Robots: Myths, Machines, and Ancient Dreams of Technology.”
The Foreseeable World of Greek Mythology
In Greek mythology, fascinating tales of machines and technology abound. One of the most notable examples is the bronze killer robot, Talos, who stood guard and protected the island of Crete. Additionally, the story of Pandora, a “wicked AI fembot” programmed to unleash eternal suffering upon humanity, bears striking similarities to the androids being developed today by companies like Boston Dynamics. Dr. Mayor’s book presents numerous instances of how the ancient Greeks envisioned many of the technologies that we have today.
Glimpses of Tomorrow
While the ancient Greeks may not have understood the mechanics of these technologies, they had an astute foresight regarding their emergence in society. Dr. Mayor points out intriguing evidence of pilotless vehicles in Greek civilization, such as Odysseus’s Phaeacian ships, which she draws parallels to modern GPS technology. Furthermore, the Greeks had glimpses of the rise of artificial intelligence and service robots. According to Homer’s Iliad, the Greek god of metalworking and invention, Hephaestus, constructed mechanical humanoids made of gold. These humanoids possessed learning, reasoning, and skills, reminiscent of the self-learning machines that we have today.
The Golden “Humanoids” of Ancient Greece
These golden “humanoids” were designed to anticipate and fulfill their master’s requests, exhibiting qualities that resemble today’s advanced AI capabilities. The ancient Greek civilization also depicted self-driving wheeled tripods, which were described in Homer’s epic poem and carried nectar and ambrosia. Drawing parallels to modern corporations like Google, Apple, and Amazon, Dr. Mayor suggests that revisiting the ancient Greek civilization’s history could offer valuable insights for the technological advancements of today.
The ancient Greeks’ visionary outlook on technology is truly remarkable. Their myths and tales not only entertained and enlightened their society but also foreshadowed the development of AI, killer robots, and self-driving cars in our contemporary world. As we delve deeper into the realms of technology and innovation, we can’t help but acknowledge the timeless wisdom embedded in the ancient myths.
While they didn’t actually invent self-driving cars, they did have stories and myths depicting vehicles that operated without human intervention, which are early representations of the concept.
Talos was a bronze automaton created by Hephaestus to safeguard the island of Crete. He circled the island three times daily to protect it from invaders.
In Homer’s Iliad, the god Hephaestus constructed golden humanoids capable of learning, reasoning, and performing various tasks, resembling the concept of AI and service robots.
Apart from AI, killer robots, and self-driving-like vehicles, the ancient Greeks envisioned many other technologies, including advanced weaponry, automation, and machines.
While Dr. Adrienne Mayor’s book, “Gods and Robots: Myths, Machines, and Ancient Dreams of Technology,” is an excellent source on this subject, several other academic works explore the connections between ancient myths and modern technology.