Now that artificial intelligence is an immediate reality and not just a distant calculation, the drift toward technological singularity — with humanity itself serving as collateral damage — is suddenly in flux.
I have no antidote to our collective fear. But I have a suggestion.
Although it may seem naive and naive, in such moments I turn to history itself, especially ancient Greek history. I'm not looking for answers to our existential predicament so much as I'm looking for reassurance about our value as intelligent, adaptable people. And in the life stories of these bold, curious, brave, and intelligent Greeks, I always find evidence of humanity's gift for perseverance and overperformance.
Here is a brief profile of four lesser-known ancient Greeks, whose tenacity and faith remind us that we, as their flesh-and-blood successors, must push the limits of our abilities and intelligence as machines expand their capabilities.
Spartan women were objects of fascination and wonder in the classical Greek world. Unlike women in other Greek city-states, they could inherit, own and manage land. Spartan girls were also formally educated and athletic, engaging in regular physical activity, such as running, jumping, and strength exercises.
Perhaps this is why Kinisca, the daughter of the King of Sparta, was angry at the exclusion of women from Olympic competition. Having inherited her father's horses after his death, this wealthy princess, who was certainly aware of the rules against women even while attending the Olympics, decided to compete in the four-horse chariot race known as the tetribon.
Kiniska knew that the victor's prize in a tetribon race went to the owner of the horses, not the jockey. I also understood that since women of independent wealth were rare in the Greek world, a Spartan's entry into the Games of 396 BC was supposedly financed by a wealthy man.
There is no record of the judges' reaction when they learned that a team of women-owned horses had won the race. But Kiniska cannot be deprived of her place in history as the first woman to win an Olympic victory (she won four years…