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Gods and Robots

Myths, Machines, and Ancient Dreams of Technology
Narrated by: Adrienne Mayor
Length: 9 hrs and 24 mins
Non-member price: $34.76
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Publisher's Summary

The fascinating untold story of how the ancients imagined robots and other forms of artificial life - and even invented real automated machines

The 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 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.

©2018 Adrienne Mayor (P)2018 Princeton University Press

Critic Reviews

"Dr. Mayor urges top tech bosses to closely analyse the stories of the Greeks as we close in on a future dominated by automated technologies." (Harry Pettit, Daily Mail)

"In her new book, Gods and Robots, Adrienne Mayor draws comparisons between mythical androids and ancient robots and the AI of today.... Through detailed storytelling and careful analysis of popular myths, Mayor urges readers to consider lessons learned from these stories as we set about creating a new world with AI.... Wonderful storytelling, thorough research, and impressive expertise." (Sarah Olson, Science)

"It is a place where megalomaniac leaders with an insatiable appetite for knowledge develop artificial intelligence and robots that pose grave dangers to humanity. Silicon Valley? No, Greek mythology." (Mark Bridge, The Times)

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  • Ian K O'Malley
  • 12-12-2018

a great overview

Mayor does a wonderful job of job digging up ancient myths that have relevance to automation. The references alone make this a worthwhile read.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Porter Jones
  • 30-12-2018

Awful narrator for interesting story

The narrator’s halting delivery is distracting and off putting. Better to read the print version of this interesting tale.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful