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Where does the word robot come from?

Photo by Franck V. on Unsplash
Robot is a rare example of a Czech word ('robota') being incorporated into English. 
robot was introduced to the public by the Czech interwar writer Karel Čapek in his play R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots), published in 1920. 
The play begins in a factory that makes artificial people called robots, though they are closer to the modern ideas of androids, creatures who can be mistaken for humans. They can plainly think for themselves, though they seem happy to serve. At issue is whether the robots are being exploited and the consequences of their treatment.  
Čapek credited his brother Josef with coming up with the word robot and wrote to the Oxford English Dictionary to correct their etymology. Karel had originally used another neologism labori based on the Latin word for work, labor, but was dissatisfied. His brother then pointed to the Czech word robota, which carries the suggestion of surf labour or slave.

This dystopian association has lingered. In 1973 science-fiction writer Michael Chricton wrote and directed a hugely successful film 'Westworld'  - which portrayed a sophisticated robot theme park descending into a Frankenstinian nightmare. The 2016 TV series has rebooted popular fears of sinister androids

Yet as Katherine Richardson points out in this BBC broadcast that our notions about robots continue to be fanciful. Despite remarkable progress in robotic, they are still comparatively clumsy, ineffective machines:


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Comments

  1. Probably from Japan! They've always been trying to create new technologies and machines, so it should be possible!

    ReplyDelete
  2. It's Czech word :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. To B Or... Not To B.

    The first part spelled backwards and it's right there in the cartoon. Is this some sort of Rod Sterling moment that no one is seeing this but me?

    ReplyDelete

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