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AI NarrativesA History of Imaginative Thinking about Intelligent Machines$
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Stephen Cave, Kanta Dihal, and Sarah Dillon

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780198846666

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198846666.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 30 July 2021

Artificial Slaves in the Renaissance and the Dangers of Independent Innovation

Artificial Slaves in the Renaissance and the Dangers of Independent Innovation

Chapter:
(p.95) 4 Artificial Slaves in the Renaissance and the Dangers of Independent Innovation
Source:
AI Narratives
Author(s):

Kevin Lagrandeur

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198846666.003.0005

This chapter discusses how Renaissance stories of the golem of Prague, of Paracelsus’s homunculus, and of a talking brass head built by a natural philosopher in Robert Greene’s play Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay show the fears and hopes embedded in that culture’s reactions to human invention—as well as an ambivalence to the idea of slavery, for intelligent objects are almost uniformly proxies for indentured servants. Moreover, the tales examined in this chapter about artificial servants foreshadow our modern ambivalence about our innate technological abilities. The power of their technological promise is countervailed by fears that these products of our own ingenuity will overwhelm us.

Keywords:   Proto-AI, artificial slaves, Renaissance literature, threat of AI, danger of innovation, Friar Bacon, golem, homunculus, Aristotle’s Politics

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