Nautilus

Most Tech Today Would be Frivolous to Ancient Scientists

The tech that most people depend on must appeal to our fears and vanities and must require continuous and rapid overturn. If it were truly necessary, the market would demand durability.Wikicommons

Surrounded by advanced achievements in medicine, space exploration, and robotics, people can be forgiven for thinking our time boasts the best technology. So I was startled last year to hear Sarah Stroup, a professor of classics at the University of Washington, Seattle, give a speech called “Robots, Space Exploration, Death Rays, Brain Surgery, and Nanotechnology: STEMM in the Ancient World.” Stroup has created a college course integrating classics and science to show how 2,000 year-old Greek and Roman STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics, medicine) underlie and illuminate the sciences today.

Stroup starts with robotics. The Greeks made self-acting machinery such as an , a first step toward building a real robot, and that chooses its own targets. In the 4th century BCE, Aristotle foresaw other implications of intelligent machines when he wrote, “If every instrument could accomplish its own work… chief workmen would not want servants, nor masters slaves,” as is now happening when robots and artificial intelligence replace people.

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