“The humans, who can think, are so afraid of those who cannot think…”
In this episode, the first half of a two-part discussion, Clare and Hannah chat about the progress of robotics over the years, laying the groundwork for the second part, where we get super-duper philosophical and stuff.
Timecode Guide: Coming soon!
R.U.R. by Karel Capek
Czech playwright Karel Capek gets credit for inventing the word “robot,” which comes from the Czech word robota, meaning “drudgery.” His 1920 play, entitled “R.U.R.” premiered in Prague in 1921. The initials R.U.R. stand for “Rossum’s Universal Robots.”
Capek’s robots are anthropomorphic and not as mechanical as the word robot has come to connote. His robots are constructed from artificial, factory-grown tissue and blood. They are more akin to what later science fiction termed “androids,” “replicants,” or “clones.”
The play begins in a factory manned by the sentient robots. Mayhem ensues.
Advanced automobile assembly line
Note: Clare did totally and epically misremember the smashy crushy things from Star Wars. The droid factory sequence of smashy crushy things was in Attack of the Clones, not Revenge of the Sith. D’oh!!
Smashy Crushy Things from Galaxy Quest, Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, and Monsters, Inc.
Boston Dynamics robots: Stretch, Spot, and Atlas.
Robot-dense and depopulating, South Korea embraces its techno-dystopian future: “The Untact Society.”
The modern recluses of Japan’s growing hikikimori phenomenon: “Understanding the People Who Choose to Live in Extreme Isolation.”
On a more positive note: “Robotic Surgery: Everything You Need to Know.”
Robot books by Isaac Asimov:
- I, Robot — an anthology constructed as a “novel-in-stories” or a volume of linked stories.
- The Caves of Steel — First published in 1953 as a serial in Galaxy magazine. Published in book form in 1954. An interesting mix of genres: it’s a detective mystery in a science fiction milieu, written to prove wrong John W. Campbell who said the two genres could not be mixed. Asimov took up the contrary position and went so far as to state that SF is a “flavor” that could be used in any genre of story and need not be considered a separate genre.
- The Naked Sun — (1957) Set on the planet Solaria, one of the Outer Worlds. The people on Solaria are total germophobes and misanthropes. They practice a form of “social distancing” more extreme than we could imagine…until the global Wuhan coronavirus pandemic in 2020, that is. They interact and communicate primarily through what they call “viewing,” a form of sophisticated and convincing holographic remote communication. They avoid “personal presence,” what they call “seeing” as much as possible.
The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton.
“The Changeling” is a classic episode from Season 2 (1967) of Star Trek: The Original Series. Vic Perrin (the “Control Voice” from The Outer Limits) provided the voice of Nomad. Star Trek – The Original Series: A Celebration by Ben Robinson and Ian Spelling.
Clare is an independent author who would love it if you checked out her books! If you like exciting thrillers featuring real human beings (not robots) who rise to their full potential in the face of peril—you might enjoy The Keys of Death. It’s a veterinary medical thriller about a small-town animal doctor who gets tangled up in a whistle-blowing scheme against a big biotech company. Or, if you prefer shorter fiction, try Startling Figures, a collection of three paranormal stories.
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