We have been telling stories about machines with minds for almost three thousand years. In the Iliad, written around 800 BCE, Homer describes the oldest known AI: “golden handmaidens” created by Hephaestus, the disabled god of metalworking. They “seemed like living maidens” with “intelligence… voice and vigour”, and “bustled about supporting their master.” In the Odyssey, Homer also gave us the first autonomous vehicles — the self-sailing ships that take Odysseus home to Ithaca, navigating “by thought,” along with biomimetic robots — a pair of silver and gold watchdogs which guard a palace not with teeth and claws but with their “intelligent minds.”
Such stories have been told continually ever since. They come in a wide range of forms: myths and legends, apocryphal tales, film and fiction, and serious-minded speculations about the future.
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