(These are excerpts from my book "Intelligence is not Artificial")
Historical Trivia: The Ancient Roots of A.I.
The Greeks indulged in quite a few legends of artificial beings before inventing
science and mathematics. Homer in the "Iliad" (dated to about the 8th century BC) credits Hephaestus with building, among other devices, a group of golden female androids that "looked like real girls and could not only speak and use their limbs but were also endowed with intelligence".
The legend of Talos, a giant killer robot made of bronze, may date back to the 7th century BC but is first recorded in coin and vase paintings of the 5th century BC. It probably inspired Talus, the iron man, in Edmund Spenser's lengthy poem "The Faerie Queene" (1590). In Hesiod's "Theogony" (7th century BC) Zeus commands Hephaestus to make the seductive android Pandora in order to punish men (Pandora is programmed to open the most famous box in history and thereby release the sufferings that have plagued humankind ever since). Actually, according to these Greek legends, humans are the first androids: they were built by Prometheus.
Some suspect that the giants of Mont'e Prama erected by the Nuragic civilization (9th century BC) in the Italian island of Sardinia may also represent mechanical robots (either that or the sculptors were not too good at portraying human faces). And, according to a Buddhist legend (the "Lokapannatti", known both in Sanskrit and in Mandarin), King Ajatashatru, who reportedly knew both Buddha and Mahavira (the founder of Jainism), had mechanical robots built to guard the corpse of Siddhartha Gautama (aka Buddha). These robots, modeled after Greek technology (so says the text), were eventually disarmed by king Ashoka who then proceeded to spread Buddha relics all over the world.
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