Hercules wants you to take a break from you labors and read a book. These two are free right now.
Like any totally-normal-not-at-all-obsessed person, I spend a lot of time thinking about automatons.
Mostly, I shake my fist at the sky like an old man complaining that kids these days only like their sleek, human-passing, electric robots and no one cares about the wind, fire, water, and clockwork powered beings that preceded them. Is MonkBot not sexy? With that sweet, sweet segmented mouth action?
Automatons are usually thought of as no different from golems, living dolls, or patchwork girls. Just another category of animated being: nifty, sure, but so what? But automatons are, and have always been, important. And for two thousand years we knew that.
In the arc of human invention, automatons predate paper. That means before we thought “sure would be nice to write things in a convenient and portable manner” we thought “sure would be nice to have an inhuman creation in our shape that moves.” Then we immediately looked at this thing we’d made and instead of believing we’d become gods, we thought we’d created them. In ancient Rome and Egypt, as well as during the medieval period, automatons were representations of the divine. Even after they shifted into the realm of entertainment, automatons were singular wonders, art that brought joy to the viewer.
By remembering automatons we remember how the prioritization of art can become bulldozed by wants of industry, the miraculous giving way to the profitable. These creations are still essential to study, because when humans create in their own image they also create a tangible snapshot of the values and visions of the world at that moment. Sometimes, that image is of religious devotion. Sometimes, it’s an image of intellectual curiosity and wonder. But sometimes they are darker, cautionary tales exposing how power operates against the powerless.
‘“Devs” mixes themes of religion with themes of technology because Garland considers them “versions of the same thing: They’re devotional, they’re faith-based, they make us feel dizzy, they make us feel small, they make us feel comforted,” he says, citing “the way in which the product launch of a new piece of tech can look like a very excited, feverish church meeting.”
All of these shows depict such devotion — often leading to great destruction — despite even the best of intentions. In “Devs,” Sergei (Karl Glusman) becomes physically ill when he learns what Forest’s code really does, and Forest has him killed. (Admittedly, he does resurrect him in that digital afterlife, making him what Garland calls “damaged” and “complicated,” rather than a “bad guy.”) “Westworld” spent its first two seasons peeling back the layers of both the people who both built and frequented the robot host-filled theme parks that let them play out their wildest childhood dreams, no matter how sadistic they turned out to be, and the hosts themselves as some of them gained awareness of their situation. And in “Next,” a pair of brothers (played by John Slattery and Jason Butler Harner) fall on opposite sides of what to do about an A.I. that develops into a super-intelligence and begins to manipulate the lives of those who are trying to shut it down.
Even though dramatic license is taken for the level to which these technologies evolve in these stories, the majority of the science is rooted in fact, which requires an ongoing research process, especially as the real world of technology changes over time.’
See also: Gods in our Machines.
Talos was said to have been created by Hephaestus, killed by Medea’s knowledge. She knew to take out a bolt at his foot, causing him to die similarly to Achilles (the killing machine of The Iliad).
One account claims that Talos was actually a bull and not a humanoid figure, but, if we know anything about robots, it is that they can sometimes transform (so we won’t hold that as discrepancy):
On Talos, Adrienne Mayor, author of Gods and Robots, has this to say:
‘The “imaginary significance” of automata like Talos ‘in the premodern period had little to do with mechanistic ideas,” asserts Kang, who claims that Talos was “not a mechanical being but very much a living creature.” But ancient sources describe Talos as “made, not Born.” As we saw, Talos’s internal anatomy and movements were explained through mechanistic concepts, and this was echoed in ancient artistic depictions: What living creature has a metallic body and nonblood circulatory system sealed with a bolt? Moreover, the mythic accounts and fifth-century BC artworks illustrating the destruction of Talos show that his demised required technology, specifically the removal of the bolt.’ – Adrienne Mayor, “The Robot and the Witch.”
We have been asked in the past why Talos isn’t one of the Automata in the Circo del Herrero / The Blacksmith’s Circus Series. We had attempted to answer it here, but want to note that just like new phones, even “made, not-borns” can get an upgrade. Not all technology serves the same purpose or is powered the same. The Automata in The Automation do not have bolts in their ankles that can spill “nonblood.” They’ve a much sleeker design. They are an exclusive line of tech for a specific purpose that does not disregard previous iterations, but improves upon them.
Talos’s purpose was to protect Europa, throwing stones at any who came near. Zeus, in the form of a bull, kidnapped her and gave her Talos, so it is fitting that the robot would also have a bull form. If I had written the myth, perhaps it would have been Talos who kidnapped her for Zeus and held her captive. Anyone doing Zeus’s bidding would be an extension/avatar of Zeus himself, so not much recorded myth would be undermined except the fact the bull was said to be white. But what is color when the Greeks didn’t even have blue?
This would not be the only example of a bull being used “in stead” of someone else. It is a common motif. Daedalus’s bull for Pasiphae, mother of the Minotaur (through bestiality) is one, the Brazen Bull, perhaps, another.
What’s most interesting to me about Talos is how he is depicted in imagery. In the two most famous of his images, he has genitals. The Automation’s Automata do not so much have full genitals (read: sex), but they do have gender. Infertile they may be, I wonder if Talos was? Or are gentials, here, merely an expression of gender for the ancients (clothes lacking as indicators – pun intended)? Better yet, what if they are a symbol that reproduction can mean more than biological offspring? Aren’t all robots replicable in theory? That hardly seems unproductive to me.
By G.B. Gabbler