“In which the origin of the word “robot” is traced, precursors and context are briefly examined, and the Human soul is displayed for your consideration.” Karel Chapek’s 1920 play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots) coined the word ‘robot,” which in the play was applied to an artificial worker, a living being manufactured with a chemical substitute for protoplasm. However, by the late 1920s, the word “robot” was almost universally applied to mechanisms. An existing set of artistic conventions for depicting human workers as lifeless, alienated automatons was operating at the same time we start to see an emerging new aesthetic that presents mechanized automatons as animated, social humanoids.
I’d like to trace the word “Robot,” examine its context, and consider the human soul. I’ll start off with a little help from Flight of the Conchords.