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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default The Few, the Proud, the Clay

    In science fiction the concept of robots with free will is hardly novel, and likewise there's not really any shortage of books featuring such (sometimes even as main or major characters). I have to wonder though, what about the magical fantasy equivalency? I refer to, if you couldn't guess from the title, Golems.

    Anyone who reads Discworld surely would be familiar with the likes of Dorfl and the Golem Trust. To my recollection, this is the only example of 'free golems' I so much as heard of. Closest next thing I can think of would be the Warforged in Ebberon, but even that isn't necessarily the same thing. If anyone has any other examples (particularly in book form) I would be very much appreciative.

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    Default Re: The Few, the Proud, the Clay

    There is something about the idea of sentient golems that is tickling my mind. But for some reason every time I think im close to figuring it out I switch back to alphonse elric from full metal alchemist. I keep picturing the "noble sacrifice" trope where some artificial being sacrifices its "life" to save his friends, even though he isnt supposed to be capable of feelings at all or some such thing. But damned if I can recall a title, or even enough info for a description.
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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: The Few, the Proud, the Clay

    How about Shale, from the video game Dragon Age?

    P.S. I worked out the topic of the thread AND the literary reference in question just from the title, I feel proud!
    Last edited by Goosefeather; 2012-02-16 at 11:49 PM.

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    Default Re: The Few, the Proud, the Clay

    I haven't run into the concept much outside of Discworld, but the Clay Men in the browser game Echo Bazaar are very much their own persons. (I'm pretty sure. I haven't gotten far enough in the game to know if I'm wrong.)
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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: The Few, the Proud, the Clay

    I just thought of another pseudo-example, but I'm not sure if it would actually count. In an old line of comic books based in the Forgotten Realms one of the main characters was a golem named Minder. Reason it's not an accurate example was she was actually technically a dwarf, just in a golem's body (she was killed and her wizard friend magicked her conscious into a nearby golem, much like Al in FMA).

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    BlackDragon

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    Default Re: The Few, the Proud, the Clay

    I think the issue here is that a Golem is pretty much by definition an enslaved entity--it's a mass of some lifeless material which is given life to perform a specific task. I'd have to say a golem which exhibits free will is not really a golem!

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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: The Few, the Proud, the Clay

    That's why I used the robot example, robots have the advantage of real-world advances in artificial intelligence making it really easy to comprehend the idea of a machine thinking and operating on it's own like a person. Golems really aren't anything other then robots only with magical 'software'. Outside of that and arguably the materials they are made of (hard to imagine a robot made of clay) there's no real difference between them. So I say if robots get to be sentient there there's really no reason why somewhere down the line golems can't be too.
    Last edited by BiblioRook; 2012-02-17 at 03:16 AM.

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    HalfOrcPirate

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    Default Re: The Few, the Proud, the Clay

    Shale (DAO) is wry, sardonic, and unabashedly fabulous. Unconventional for a rock golem. HOWEVER, it also does not fit the typical definition of a golem. Due to spoilers I won't elaborate.

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    Orc in the Playground
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    Default Re: The Few, the Proud, the Clay

    Well...the original idea of a golem is a symbol of life without spirit...as seen in the stories of the Golems of Chelm and Prague. A common trait of such stories is that the created being is limited in intelligence--in some versions, being only "programmable" with simple commands, in others being a thing of base nature--impulsive, crude, reactive.

    The idea of a sapient, human-like artificial being exists set apart from the idea of a golem: the idea of the homonculus, or anthroparion--possessing life and free will--has been around for a awhile, discussed by alchemists and natural philosophers. In Islamic alchemy, there's even a specific term for the creation of "complete" living beings; takwin. In literature, the idea crops up in works like Goethe's Faust...and arguably Frankenstein is as much an invocation of the homonculus as the golem. They're don't have quite the same profile in fantasy that golems do, but they turn up occasionally: Mike Mignola's comic Hellboy has a homonculus character.

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    Troll in the Playground
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    Default Re: The Few, the Proud, the Clay

    In the days before 'Fables' (the DC comic book) Bill Willingham wrote 'Elementals' for Comico. One of the recurring characters was Fantasia Faust an Iron Golem disguised by illusion spells to look like a beautiful woman and with her mass countered by a leviatation spell, she operated as a hit women bringing centuries of experience, near invulnerability and huge strength to the role
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    Default Re: The Few, the Proud, the Clay

    Quote Originally Posted by factotum View Post
    I think the issue here is that a Golem is pretty much by definition an enslaved entity--it's a mass of some lifeless material which is given life to perform a specific task. I'd have to say a golem which exhibits free will is not really a golem!
    Robots are technically even worse, though; the word itself literally comes from the Czech word for "slave." R.U.R. was basically (albeit unintentionally) a modernized update of the old story of Golems. The reason probably is because of a divergence in how they're treated in media; as you say, a golem that exhibits free will isn't a golem, but is treated as some other form of artificial construct (for instance, the warforged of Eberron, which the OP itself states are not necessarily golems). A robot that exhibits free will is still treated as a robot (indeed, R.U.R. itself encompasses the now-archetypal robot revolution as well as its aftermath), and the conflict comes from different understandings of the word. Not to mention that robot, being less well-defined than the golem, could also encompass greater span of meanings, whether the biological Replicants (originally androids in the novel) of Blade Runner or the mechanical baseline we see most commonly.
    Last edited by Mistral; 2012-02-17 at 12:46 PM.
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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: The Few, the Proud, the Clay

    Quote Originally Posted by Yanagi View Post
    Well...the original idea of a golem is a symbol of life without spirit...as seen in the stories of the Golems of Chelm and Prague. A common trait of such stories is that the created being is limited in intelligence--in some versions, being only "programmable" with simple commands, in others being a thing of base nature--impulsive, crude, reactive.
    In most cases, probably so. I'm hardly trying to say that golems with independent will should be a common occurrence and/or that all golems need to do is wise up and throw off their shackles of servitude, going back to the robot example you hardly expect an automotive assembly robot to suddenly want more out of it's existence. If you notice I'm not really arguing with any of your definitions of what a golem is, just in the absolutism in what is literally an entirely fictional concept.

    Thing about programing though, if it's implied golems lack intelligence and will or are simple and crude due to programing then it can also be implied that that programing could be advanced. I find it hard to believe that somewhere in the grand fictional history of golems some wizard or so didn't decide that instead of just a clay human shaped shovel or metal guardsman that only did exactly as told and nothing else he would want something that could anticipate his instructions within some ballpark of his original order or even (gods forbid) give the golem the capacity to learn from past failures and mistakes. I don't find ether concept very unusual but both could possibly develop further into some sort of conscious or will that would set the stage for what I'm getting at well enough. Again, I'm not saying all golems should be expected to develop sentience, but off the 99 that never deviate from their original program that there might be 1 that does.
    Last edited by BiblioRook; 2012-02-17 at 04:00 PM.

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    Orc in the Playground
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    Default Re: The Few, the Proud, the Clay

    Thing about programing though, if it's implied golems lack intelligence and will or are simple and crude due to programing then it can also be implied that that programing could be advanced.
    Folklorically, the golem lacks the faculties--the mental/spiritual qualities--for superior programming. It sounds circular, but that's what defines a golem--that possession of no, or only rudimentary, nous. It can only be crude, literal, unnuanced. Basically, the golem is a trope, and part of that trope is lack of intelligence. So generally when people describe golems, that's part of the package...and when the being is smarter/possesses a mind, the exception is noted.

    "Programming" was a poor word choice on my part, since it suggests coding and AI. Where the robot-golem comparison breaks down is that in golem construction there's no such thing as boosting processing power: implicit in the concept is a hard barrier between the "nonlife" of the golem--the semblance of life that a rabbi or magus can bestow--and the "real life"--characterized by free will, reason, and intellect--that only the province of the divine. Hence the wholly separate concept of the homonculus and the explicit recognition that the creation of the latter reaches into the realm of the divine.

    Look, what I'm suggesting is that you're not going to find a lot of cases of "free golems" either in past or contemporary lit usage because, by definition, the term suggests lack of motive force. If however, your search is for artificial life with free will, then you should look for homonculi in addition to golems.

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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: The Few, the Proud, the Clay

    This discussion actually made me think about something I'd never really considered before. As you note it's very rare for magic to be used to create sentience from scratch. That level of power is usually reserved for deities or others on that scale. However, when science enters the picture you can't walk 2 feet without tripping over a sentient AI or intelligent robot. It's interesting to me how magic can't often create true life, while science can.
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    Default Re: The Few, the Proud, the Clay

    oho, I'm working on fixing that. the lack of golems will be fixed too.

    that and science is the victim of being portrayed through mad scientists, who were originally meant to be figures of pride and whatnot who thought they could play god as a result tried to create life. these portrayals were not from people who liked science, these portrayals were from people who hated science and thought that it was meddling in the domain of the gods, and that one would have to be insane to do so….as a result, villainous mad scientist prideful portrayals who thought they could create life, and having their work being destroyed spectacularly by angry villagers/heroes/own creations.
    then people who liked science got wind of it, and instead of hating it….they for some reason instead made stories where creating life was awesome and then Isaac Asimov came along and made his three laws of robotics….and well the rest is history really…..

    meanwhile, the fantasy stories were about wizards who didn't bother to meddle in the domain of the gods….because gods really exist in those worlds. you don't want to tick them off. that and oddly enough, its more believable for creating life to be hard for a wizard….all the magical energy and chanting and rituals and such for merely blasting fireballs, imagine the work it would take to make new life….
    or to be short….people making fantasy worlds generally bothered to lay out the rules of magic in full and so established some "can't create life" limitation somewhere for some reason. science meanwhile, we don't know all the rules of them yet. we are still guessing, meaning by this weird train of logic, science leaves more room for the imagination than magic, because you have to establish the rules of magic from the start so as not to be inconsistent, while with science people can add on anything they like, because we don't know the full rules of science yet.
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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: The Few, the Proud, the Clay

    To say that it isn't being done because 'by definition' it isn't is a rather weak excuse, even if it's accurately the excuse being used. Again, this is an entirely fictional concept and to claim that one can't toy with the concept because there are 'limitations' in place on what one can do with it is really quite inane. Sure it's based on folklore and it can be argued that people are just trying to keep it to it's roots, but really what isn't based on folklore somewhere down the line? I'm also fairly confident that the Jewish community wouldn't really give a rat's ass what people do with the concept of golems as well.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yanagi View Post
    If however, your search is for artificial life with free will, then you should look for homonculi in addition to golems.
    I never really liked homonculi, or at least how I usually see them used. They usually bank harder on the idea of actively trying to create life where there wasn't any rather then life being more as something of an after-thought that golems kinda have for them. When you are doing it on purpose it loses alot of oomph, for me at least, just not as entertaining. Attempts at playing god and creating life also tend to be rather plot hogging elements (for different reasons) that I'm really not looking for as they focus more on the moral or theological conflicts of the idea.

    While the two are similar in ways, they also are really quite different in my mind.
    Last edited by BiblioRook; 2012-02-18 at 03:25 AM.

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    Default Re: The Few, the Proud, the Clay

    The point being made is that much like there is a difference between a virtual intelligence and an artificial intelligence, there is a difference between a golem and a sentient construct. Sentient beings created by magic are actually quite common, and come in all sorts of different shapes sizes and materials. In many beliefs/myths even humans come from a form of magical creation. Created life as a concept when applied to magic is not stopped at clay, and even when it starts there it often becomes something else in the process. Just as genetically engineered and cloned life forms are often prevalent in Sci Fi over AIs. Robots as a concept are simply more popular than golems. Hard to say why really.
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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: The Few, the Proud, the Clay

    Quote Originally Posted by Xondoure View Post
    Robots as a concept are simply more popular than golems. Hard to say why really.
    Popularity of robots isn't really much of a mystery, in fact I already remarked upon it. Robots are real. Reality is a powerful thing, the fact that we can directly witness the progression of robotics and artificial intelligence does a lot to enhance the allure of them in fiction. It's one of the reasons Sci-Fi is generally taken more seriously as a genre then fantasy, fantasy is just fantasy, but Sci-Fi can possibly to some extent one day become truth. At least how many see it.

    But that's not really here nor there, I'm wondering if I should cut back on the robot comparision myself before this starts something of a thread derailment.

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