A “robotic” ought to be chemical, not metal, argues man who coined the phrase

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In 1921, Czech playwright Karel Čapek and his brother Josef invented the phrase “robotic” in a sci-fi play known as R.U.R. (brief for Rossum’s Common Robots). As Even Ackerman in IEEE Spectrum factors out, Čapek wasn’t joyful about how the time period’s that means advanced to indicate mechanical entities, straying from his unique idea of synthetic human-like beings primarily based on chemistry.

In a newly translated column known as “The Writer of the Robots Defends Himself,” revealed in Lidové Noviny on June 9, 1935, Čapek expresses his frustration about how his unique imaginative and prescient for robots was being subverted. His arguments nonetheless apply to each fashionable robotics and AI. On this column, he referred to himself within the third-person:

For his robots weren’t mechanisms. They weren’t made from sheet metallic and cogwheels. They weren’t a celebration of mechanical engineering. If the writer was pondering of any of the marvels of the human spirit throughout their creation, it was not of know-how, however of science. With outright horror, he refuses any accountability for the thought that machines may take the place of individuals, or that something like life, love, or rise up may ever awaken of their cogwheels. He would regard this somber imaginative and prescient as an unforgivable overvaluation of mechanics or as a extreme insult to life.

This just lately resurfaced article comes courtesy of a brand new English translation of Čapek’s play known as R.U.R. and the Imaginative and prescient of Synthetic Life accompanied by 20 essays on robotics, philosophy, politics, and AI. The editor, Jitka Čejková, a professor on the Chemical Robotics Laboratory in Prague, aligns her analysis with Čapek’s unique imaginative and prescient. She explores “chemical robots”—microparticles resembling residing cells—which she calls “liquid robots.”

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