Peace and Tech: Part 3
The Robots of Hephaestus—A metaphor for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics.
  • Humanity has unlocked five technological powers that people in the ancient world seemed to think only gods could possess.
  • For humanity to make sustainable progress toward peace, justice, survival, and prosperity in the twenty-first century, our five god-like technological powers must be recognized as critically important peace issues.
  • Metaphors from Greek Mythology show how the ongoing escalation of these technological powers requires an even greater escalation of our Peace Literacy.

Nemesis

Messenger of Justice, Dispenser of Dues

In Greek mythology, Hephaestus is the god of fire. Ancient Greek writers used his name as a synonym for fire. Hephaestus is also a god of technology, including blacksmithing, and all other forms of metalworking, as well as stonemasonry, and crafts. In this image, Hephaestus is activating a robot. Why a robot? The Iliad is nearly three-thousand years old, and Hephaestus has robots in the Iliad.

Hephaestus

In the following excerpt from the Iliad, Hephaestus is working at his forge. When he steps away from his forge, his robots attend to him. These robots are made of gold and resemble women servants: “Then he sponged off his brow and both burly arms, his massive neck and shaggy chest, pulled on a shirt and grasping a heavy staff, Hephaestus left his forge and hobbled on. Handmaids ran to attend their master, all cast in gold but a match for living, breathing girls. Intelligence fills their hearts, voice and strength their frames, from the deathless gods they’ve learned their works of hand. They rushed to support their lord as he went bustling on.”

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Hephaestus has other robots. These robots are cauldrons that move on their own by rolling on wheels, similar to robot vacuum cleaners and self-driving cars. When Thetis, mother of Achilles, visits Hephaestus in his workspace, she sees these self-rolling cauldrons: “There [Thetis] found him, sweating . . . pressing the work on twenty cauldrons, an array to ring the walls inside his mansion. He’d bolted golden wheels to the legs of each so all on their own speed, at a nod from him, they could roll to halls where the gods convene then roll right home again—a marvel to behold.”

In the Odyssey, written nearly three thousand years ago along with the Iliad, King Aklinoös is protected by robot dogs, made of gold and silver and created by Hephaestus. According to the Odyssey: “And dogs made out of gold and silver . . . fashioned by Hephaestus in his craftsmanship and cunning, to watch over the palace of great-hearted Aklinoös, being themselves immortal, and all their days are ageless.” If people in ancient Greece could see the robot dogs currently being made by Boston Dynamics, they would probably think that these are creations of Hephaestus.

VIDEO OF BOSTON DYNAMICS ROBOT DOGS

VIDEO OF BOSTON DYNAMICS DANCING ROBOT

If people in ancient Greece could see the other robots that humans have created today (and the far more advanced robots that humans will create in the coming years), they would probably think that we possess the godlike power of Hephaestus.

 

We have unlocked the godlike power of Hephaestus, which is artificial intelligence and robotics. Although artificial intelligence and robotics overlap, they are also two separate fields. Peace Literacy shows in much greater depth why Hephaestus can symbolize both artificial intelligence and robotics.

As our AI and robotics technologies continue to escalate, we must escalate our Peace Literacy in even greater measure so that we can use the godlike power of Hephaestus responsibly.

Humanity Tech Acceleration.jpg

Hypnos

The Peace Literacy Institute is working to create the Peace Literacy Metaverse, which will use VR, AR, and AI to accelerate and scale up the learning of Peace Literacy. The Peace Literacy Metaverse is a new kind of universe that will transform the classroom into an epic journey, comprised of vast worlds and allegorical landscapes, that increase student engagement, accessibility, and the capacity to internalize and apply Peace Literacy skills.

 

In the 2020s and beyond, the godlike technological powers of Zeus, Hypnos, and Hephaestus will increasingly overlap. The Peace Literacy Metaverse will explore these powers in much more detail, providing a deeper understanding of how they overlap, the related ethical challenges, and our responsibilities as human beings.

© 2021 Paul K. Chappell

Back to Part 2: The Dreamworlds of Hypnos
Coming Soon, Part 4: The Life-Shaping Hands of Prometheus
Skip to Part 6! Nemesis, Messenger of Justice, Dispenser of Dues

The Garden of Strong Community: An Allegory and Pictorial

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