Divine Machines, Animal Machines, Evil Machines: AI in the Light of History

In this event, we will situate the rise of AI in the history of Western thought and culture. We will discuss the origin of machines in Hesiod’s Theogony, and the appearance of heavenly androids in Homer’s Iliad. We will look at radical ideas about ’animal machines’ in early modern Europe, and ask how they may have influenced later thinking about the nature of intelligence and what it means to be human. Finally, both speakers will ask: Is it possible for a machine to be evil? Or for machines to make humans more evil? What illuminations – and warnings – does Western thought have to offer on the cusp of what appears to be an AI revolution?