Nathan (vovat) wrote,
Nathan
vovat

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Robots in Disguise

The idea of automated people, often utilized as servants, is hardly a new one. I believe Hephaestus was said to have had automatons serving him. The Jewish idea of the golem is pretty similar to that a robot, so much so that Terry Pratchett mixes in a lot of elements from modern robot lore when writing about the golems of Ankh-Morpork. Traditionally, a golem isn't made of metal, but of clay, and then animated with holy words, either written on their foreheads or inserted into their heads. The most famous is the Golem of Prague, built by Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel to protect the Prague ghetto. Like computers, golems are often said to follow instructions exactly, sometimes resulting in overzealousness similar to that of the water-carrying brooms of The Sorcerer's Apprentice. The beings are traditionally said to be unable to speak, although I'm sure this varies with the particular legend.

Greek mythology, however, actually has a fully functional metal automaton. To examine this creation, we return to the island of Crete, home of liars, labyrinths, and cattle-fuckers. Talos was a gigantic man made of bronze, with ichor (the substance that made the gods immortal, apparently sometimes associated with lead) flowing through his one vein and held in place by a bronze peg. He was a gift to the Cretans by either Zeus or Hephaestus, depending on the version. His duty was to protect the island, throwing rocks at any strange ships in the area. Our old friend Medea, while sailing back to Greece with Jason, either drugged or hypnotized the mechanical marvel, and then removed the nail, allowing the ichor to drain out. There was obviously some shoddy workmanship involved in making that one peg keep the monster intact; I'm guessing that the gods might have outsourced the project. Then again, he DOES seem to have been an original creation, with no previous giant bronze-bots to use as a model. If there had been a Talos 2.0, perhaps they could have avoided this obvious design flaw.

If all goes as planned, I should be bringing you more robots tomorrow.
Tags: discworld, monsters, mythology
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