About robots, robot development
and those who make it happen

 

Whether characters in science fiction movies, employees of factories, or the objects of dire predictions of mankind’s demise, robots have occupied the imagination of humankind for centuries. We sometimes even envision and design them as copies of us, being sympathetic mirrors, perhaps.

In stories they are often pictured as dangerous creatures threatening mankind. Some are affraid that their intelligence may expand uncontrollably, and that they may enslave us.

The most realistic robots, however, have been the ones designed and built as industrial applications to replace human labor doing repetitive and/or dangerous tasks or to help us as co-workers.

 

Robots and Robotics

Machines or devices acting as automatons were in place for centuries before the word “robot” was used. In fact, the idea of beings that somehow simulate humans or that are curious combinations of man and machine are as old as primitive automatons and also pre-date the word “robot” by centuries.

The word “Robot” itself was derived from the Czech term "robota" which means “forced labor” and was introduced by Karel Čapek, a fiction writer and playwright from what used to be, in the early 20th century, Austria-Hungary. 

Even though Karel Čapek used the word "robot" in his play, it was his brother, Josef, who suggested the word to him.[1]  The word "robot" is known to have entered the English language in 1923.

Like many great authors of his time, Čapek was concerned with tides of fascism sweeping Europe, and wrote tales urging caution about a variety of dehumanizing factors in society. [2]

In 1921, Čapek debuted his play “R.U.R.”, an abbreviation for Rossum’s Universal Robots, in which humanoid robots slaughter the human race, leaving one survivor. [3]

In 1941, author Isaac Asimov introduced the word “robotics” which he used in his short story “Liar!" to describe the branch of thechnology that deals with the design, construction, operation and application of robots.[4]

 

Sources:

1. Karel Čapek by Petri Liukkonen (author) & Ari Pesonen

2. Čapek, Karel, 1890-1938 Biographical note eBooks@Adelaide, The University of Adelaide Library

3. R.U.R. eBooks@Adelaide, The University of Adelaide Library

4. Liar! copyright © 1941 by Street and Smith Publications, Inc.; copyright © 1969 by Isaac Asimov.

 

 

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