This is theme also explored by Isaac Asimov regarding the Three Laws of Robotics, in short stories such as "...That Thou Art Mindful of Him".
If you want to see a fictional representation of this, watch Cells at Work episode 5.
Me: I solved my problem at work today!
Wife: Was the computer doing exactly what you told it to do and not what you actually wanted it to do again?
Me: Yes ::sulks away::
Like Reapers in Mass Effect.
... emperor Vespasian (is said) to have purchased and destroyed the model of a mechanical device that would have made construction work more efficient, saying, “You must let me feed my poor commons (Sine me pascere plebeculam meam)” In these cases, preserving political stability motivated government to suppress technology ...
“Whenever we came to an
inn, he used to take up the bar of the door, or a broom, or perhaps a pestle, dress it up in clothes, and utter a certain incantation; whereupon the thing would begin to walk about, so that every one took it for a man. It would go off and draw water, buy and cook provisions, and make itself generally useful. When we had no further occasion for its services, there was another incantation, after which the broom was a broom once more, or the pestle a pestle. I could never get him to teach me this incantation, though it was not for want of trying; open as he was about everything else, he guarded this one secret jealously. At last one day I hid in a dark corner, and overheard the magic syllables; they were three in number. The Egyptian gave the pestle its instructions, and then went off to the market. Well, next day he was again busy in the market: so I took the pestle, dressed it, pronounced the three syllables exactly as he had done, and ordered it to become a water-carrier. It brought me the pitcher full; and then I said: Stop: be water-carrier no longer, but pestle as heretofore. But the thing would take no notice of me: it went on drawing water the whole time, until at last the house was full of it. This was awkward: if Pancrates came back, he would be angry, I thought (and so indeed it turned out). I took an axe, and cut the pestle in two. The result was that both halves took pitchers and fetched water; I had two water-carriers instead of one. This was still going on, when Pancrates appeared. He saw how things stood, and turned the water-carriers back into wood; and then he withdrew himself from me, and went away, whither I knew not.”
Abhimanyu was a warrior in the Mahabharata who, while still in his mother's
womb, heard Arjuna tell the secret of how to break into the powerful circular
battle formation known as the Chakravyūha. His mother, and with her, Abhimanyu
in her womb, fell asleep before hearing how to break out of the formation.
Once an adult, Abhimanyu entered the Chakravyūha of his enemies, the Kauravas,
and killed many of their soldiers. But, not knowing how to exit the formation,
became trapped inside and was eventually weakened and killed by the combined
might of his enemies' heroes.
The Sañjīva-Jātaka is a story-within-a-story. The main story tells of King
Ajātasattu who followed Devadatta, the enemy of the Buddhas and how he paid
for it. The story-within, tells of a young brahmin, named Sañjīva, pupil of
the Bodhisattva, who taught him a spell to raise the dead. Wishing to impress
his peers, Sañjīva cast the spell on a dead tiger. But, not knowing the
counter-spell, he could not control the tiger, who bit him in the neck and
killed him, then fell dead by his side. The story-within is meant to teach how
an evil person cannot be a true ally and will soon turn against you:
Befriend a villain, aid him in his need,
And, like that tiger which Sañjīva raised
To life, he straight devours you for your pains.
If we take Abhimanyu's story as similar to the Sorcerer's Apprentice story,
and accept that the theme is one of knowing how to initiate a process, but not
how to stop it, then we may also heed the story of Phaethon, the son of
Helios, the sun god, who asked to drive his father's chariot (i.e. the sun)
but couldn't control it and was killed by Zeus to stop him wreaking havok to
the Earth. This is a story from Greek mythology and therefore much older than
the story of Sañjīva and at least as old as the Mahabharata.
Therefore, as a stereotypical Greek, I will claim the oldest telling of the
story of The Boy Who Lost Control for the legend of Phaethon.
Abhimanyu's article on wikipedia:
Chakravyūha article on wikipedia:
Phaethon's article on wikipedia:
It would be similar to calling out a demon.
Lucian story is about giving orders to an existing automaton.
I think these stories are different.
So, for instance, we could broaden the description to include any story of
losing control over one's, or someone else's creation- therefore "covering"
stories as diverse as the legend of Icarus, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and of
course the stories of Sañjīva, Phaethon and Abhimanyu. We might focus on the
moral dimension of the story, which draws more stark parallels to the story of
Sañjīva but also King Midas. We might choose to stay as close as possible to
the them of "magical automation" in which case, we 'll only include stories
like the original tale in Lucian's work, the Sorcerer's Apprentice many
versions, and the story of the Golem of Prague, all of which include something
like the Paperclip Optimiser AGI. And so on.
I guess now I make it sound like navel-gazing, but this is actually a
legitimate problem with very real applications. For example imagine trying to
organise the stories I list above, plus who knows how many others, in
appropriate categories _automatically_ based on their narrative
characteristics. It's probably impossible to do that sort of thing with
current NLP techniques, or at least to do it in a way that would satisfy a
majority of human classifiers. Not to mention, the problem of choosing what
part of a _story_ (as opposed to what portions of _text_) to attend to when
categorising a document is also not something we can currently solve
So it's an ill-defined, hard, classification problem. Perfect subject for a
machine learning paper :)
And of course, if that fails, just claim that Alexander discovered India so you basically invented the Indians :p
The Greek plan B :D
I think the elements that make Lucian's version specifically like The Sorcerer’s Apprentice are:
* the Sorcerer's magic is appropriated by another party that doesn't understand the magic
* a "broom or pestle" is the animated object
* the object is ordered to fetch water but won't stop, eventually filling the house with water
* the object is chopped to pieces in an attempt to stop it, but the pieces continue to fetch water
* this continues until the Sorcerer comes back and angrily reverses the magic.
That's somewhat harsh, isn't it? Perhaps the commenter was not familiar with the Indian stories? The word 'bogus' has a pejorative connotation - the implication is that the commenter is being deliberately misleading which would seem a fairly uncharitable reading.
As for the Indian stories themselves, I may be forgetting some crucial details but I'm not able to see how they are Sorcerer's Apprentice type stories.
Edit: I _was_ forgetting! I still don't quite get the parallel with Abhimanyu's story but the Jataka story is definitely similar.
"Bogus" is one of those words that carries different emotional weights based on your background. The 1980s street-tough in me sees bogus in the Bill & Ted's sense, but the data scientist in me sees it in the "I didn't control all the variables in my experiment, and got bogus results" way.
I think we can assume good faith in this case, that it wasn't meant as an insult.
Befriend a villain, aid him in his need,
And, like that tiger which Sañjīva raised
To life, he straight devours you for your pains.
Which reads like an early version of the line no good deed goes unpunished :)
From the article:
A brahmin passes a tiger in a trap. The tiger pleads for his release, promising not to eat the brahmin. The brahmin sets him free but no sooner is the tiger out of the cage then he says he is going to eat the brahmin. The brahmin is horrified and tells the tiger how unjust he is. They agree to ask the first three things they encounter to judge between them. The first thing they encounter is a tree, who, having suffered at the hands of humans, answers that the tiger should eat the brahmin. Next a buffalo, exploited and mistreated by humans, agrees it is only just that the brahmin should be eaten. Finally they meet a jackal, who at first feigns incomprehension of what has happened and asks to see the trap. Once there he claims he still doesn't understand. The tiger gets back in the trap to demonstrate and the jackal quickly shuts him in, suggesting to the brahmin that they leave matters thus.
See, the Jackal is the Trickster, innit.
Of course, he seemed to also think that you could walk on the sun, but can't blame him for extending the logic and not knowing that the sun's composition wasn't great for walking.
> Of course, he seemed to also think that you could walk on the sun, but can't blame him for extending the logic and not knowing that the sun's composition wasn't great for walking.
William Herschel, discoverer of Uranus, also speculated that the Sun might be populated. It wasn't until the 19th century that the surface temperature of the Sun was estimated.
Greek was also the lingua franca of philosophy, mathematics, etc. in the Eastern Mediterranean for several centuries. If we are talking about astronomy, it is also e.g. common to call Ptolemy a “Greek” astronomer, even though he lived in the Roman province of Egypt.
I also feel the need to point out how hilariously pedantic this conversation is, and how much I enjoy that.
According to Wikipedia, it is speculated that Lucian’s native language may have been Syriac (Aramaic). But then all of his writing was done in Greek, mostly while he was living in Athens (after a lawyer/philosophy professor career traveling around the Roman empire). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucian
When I hear "Ancient Greece" I generally think of Greece through the Hellenistic period. Though now that I've said that, Lucian would have lived through the Roman annexation of Greece.
Really, my point was Lucian lived at the more recent end of antiquity. Humanity's knowledge of the world around them was quite a bit different then than 500 years prior.
The only celestial bodies that you can't do that with are the ones that are point sources to the naked eye, like the planets. Those take lenses and telescopes.
But then there's the group of consumers of course, which is worrying.
The page documents how this then filtered into Roman and early Muslim astronomical traditions. Granted, since only a small percentage of people in these societies were literate, it was probably true that most people in, say, the Roman or Sasanian empires thought the earth was flat. But given what we know about the ways that premodern books were read (often in public, sometimes to a large groups of people) it seems to me like an open question.
There's also this very interesting aside about the possibility that the Phoenicians also knew the earth was round, perhaps even predating the Greeks: "In The Histories, written 431–425 BC, Herodotus cast doubt on a report of the Sun observed shining from the north. He stated that the phenomenon was observed during a circumnavigation of Africa undertaken by Phoenician explorers employed by Egyptian pharaoh Necho II c. 610–595 BC (The Histories, 4.42) who claimed to have had the Sun on their right when circumnavigating in a clockwise direction. To modern historians, these details confirm the truth of the Phoenicians' report and even open the possibility that the Phoenicians knew about the spherical model. However, nothing certain about their knowledge of geography and navigation has survived."
Even before Christ, they used to just hold globes. It's the same image as that "evil megacorporation controlling the world" hand-holding-Earth image we've all seen before.
My point is that they seem to have known continuously since ancient times that the Earth was a sphere. They were using globus crucigers the whole time. Even in the Dark Ages, the Byzantine Emperor had coins made with his image holding such a globe, around 700AD.
It seems more like they'd know the Earth was round but really have no reason to care or spend any time thinking about it, the same way we don't spend time talking about the microwave background radiation from the big bang or the structure of our local galactic supercluster. These people didn't even have a standard unit to measure bags of grain from one village to the next. Assuming they had any grain to measure at all.
(Incidentally the ritual orb which Elsa must take in Frozen is a politically correct de-Christianized version of this).
Don't forget that the literacy rate for pre-modern societies was 10% and probably much lower on average. There were some extreme exceptions, I think the Hebrews had much higher rates, but as a whole, the world's population couldn't even write their own name.
As for illiteracy - it's not always necessary to be literate in order to know something. In our modern world there's a great many things 'everybody' knows, without necessarily ever having read about it. True things as well as false things, obviously.
I went to Egypt a couple of weeks ago. Around half-moon, my wife noted that the moon was looking strangely to her eyes. I realized that being more south, the terminator on the moon has a much shallower angle than more up in the north where I live. This indicates that the angle of observation has changed and hints also to a spherical earth.
> I talk about the gods, I am an atheist. But I am an artist too, and therefore a liar. Distrust everything I say. I am telling the truth.
The novelist produces statements that are blatantly untrue, knowing that they are untrue. The reader also knows that none of the stuff they're reading is true, yet is able to suspend disbelief and enjoy the story while it lasts. The story might be full of lies, but the enjoyment is true. The message contained in the novel might also be true, as is the person you become after having read many a classic. So it seems that a well-written falsehood can sometimes convey truth better than raw truth itself.
Nice. It is akin to my favorite movie line: I'm too truthful to be good.
All great writers will also write truthfully - their works will have truths in them, even if it's fiction - I think thats how they are recognised as being great.
I once worked with someone who viewed all types of fiction, including science fiction as "bullshit". He would only read non fiction. I felt sad for him for missing the point.
Le Guin could just as easily be talking about current events. Today, we call it "make your own reality".
Thank you. I hadn't connected these dots before.
"Wait! Where are you going?!? Coming soon! Don't miss, History of the World Part II!"
By the time the New Testament was written 50-100 AD the language was quite close to todays form, so you can easily understand it, although it would be harder to talk like this.
Lucian lived about 100 years after this, so the language was easy to read. Moreover his use of the language made it even more easy, because he despised those authors that were trying to appear "serious".
We the fiction writers are condemned to the deepest layer of hell... man. Pa always said nonfiction was the answer.