Everyone knows about robots, but where does the word “robot” come from? The origins are surprising.
The Czech writer Karel Capek (1880-1938) in 1920 wrote a play that for a time, became very popular. The play’s title in English is Rossum’s Universal Robots, also known as R.U.R.
The play’s plot concerns the story of a company that builds human-like robots, like humans in every way but without a soul. Corporations buy up the robots and exploit them. Eventually the robots revolt and kill off humans, then realize they do not know how to make more robots. The last human dies and with it the secret of building robots.
In the end, somehow two robots acquire love and compassion and set off to remake the world. Capek adapted the word “robot” from an old word, “robota,” meaning something like mandatory servitude, in a serf like way.
Capek died of pneumonia, just in time to escape death at the hands of the Nazis, who had put him on a death list. His play continues to have resonance in today’s world of artificial intelligence, and his term “robot” now is a word in most languages.
Deep knowledge,and happy reading.
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