Of course, countless science fiction works have portrayed imagined machine beings, such as HAL in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001. The classic film Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970) portrays an AI running amok and ruling humanity. The conceit has obviously become a popular generator of fictional plots. But Musk and the others are talking about the real world, our world. The pressing question becomes: Should we panic?
Or should we just accept defeat and hope our machine overlords won’t be too brutal? Or, in a more hopeful mood, look to a golden age mediated by kindly superintelligences? Or, in a more indifferent one, file all these comments under “techno overhype” and go about our business?
I’m gratified that Hercules has become such an object of public interest. He’s held my interest and abiding respect since I first learned about him five years ago. I’ve spent hundreds of hours and pored through thousands of pages to understand Hercules and his world.
But so much of what people are saying about him now does not ring true to me, based on that research. I can’t know exactly what he thought or how he felt, of course. But in writing the book my aim was always to represent him as he saw himself: dignified, commanding and proud.
The notion that there is a “normal” height or a “normal” salary is a relatively new one, and it's had a profound effect on how people think about each other and themselves.
I remember my grandmother telling me that if I were ever to marry, I should make sure he was kind. But she might just as well have said: "Find yourself a man who's nice to waiters." The way people treat restaurant staff is, I think, a kind of poker tell, revealing a person's character in as long as it takes to say: "I'll have the sea bass."