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Tale of the First Humanoid Robot

❓ Did you know that a bronze giant from ancient Greek mythology is the first humanoid robot in history?

📔 First mentioned around 700 B.C. by Hesiod, the story of Talos offers one of the earliest conceptions of #robots.

📖 Some accounts describe him as the last survivor of an ancient race of bronze men, but the more popular versions attribute his creation to Hephaestus, god of the forge.

🤖 Today, the story raises some familiar anxieties about artificial intelligence and provides an ancient blueprint for science fiction.

⚔ According to the narrative, Talos kept Jason and the Argonauts at bay by hurling boulders at them as the guardian of the island Crete. He met his demise when Medea the sorceress deceived him into believing that she would make him immortal by removing the bolt on his heel.

💀 Unaware of his own mechanical nature and human enough to long for eternal life, Talos agreed. As the gods’ life source ichor flowed out of his only vein, the giant fell with a thunderous crash and died.

❤ Like many modern myths about artificial intelligence, Talos’ tale touches on the most humane traits of a mechanical being. One 5th century BCE painter even illustrated the downfall of Talos by capturing the dying automaton with a tear rolling down his bronze cheek.

❓ This reveals how 2,500 years ago the Greeks had already begun to investigate the uncertain line between humans and machines. How much have we learned since?

🌍 As far as humanoid robots go, we may compare Talos with Sophia, the world's first robot citizen and a so-called social robot.

✨ “Social robots” are currently being designed to exhibit traits such as unselfishness, adaptivity, and empathy. Such social believability is facilitated by anthropomorphism, which is the attribution of human traits, emotions, or intentions to non-human entities.

⚖ Are we venturing into a world where the line between human and machine is blurred, or are we already there?

🔖 Like Frankenstein, the myths of Talos, Pygmalion, and the artificial woman Pandora underscore humanity’s fascination with creating artificial life with human qualities. The fact that not one of those myths has a good ending could offer another insight into the link between truth and fiction.

🎞 If this topic fascinates you, the following TED-ED video by Adrienne Mayor might fuel your curiosity: The Greek myth of Talos, the first robot - Adrienne Mayor

Contributing Editor: Nathanya Queby Satriani, Women in AI & Robotics core team member.

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