Robo Trumble

It’s the Saturday before spring break week, and despite some sort of Pan American Debate thing going on here, there’s not much happening here today. We are closed tomorrow, so I finally after 10 days get a day off, and a Sunday at that. Sunday Funday this week will probably consist of me binging on food and Netflix in bed, but isn’t that what Sundays are for? I haven’t done my roulette in a while, it’s actually pretty difficult to do sometimes, and I feel like the last couple ones have been especially so topic wise. Today I’m feeling like it could be a bit more fun. After getting my random numbers I found myself poking around the math/computer area and found a gem from 1982. There’s nothing like seeing old technology books, twenty five years ago technology wise seems almost more like one hundred years, but there is something nostalgic and endearing about these old books. Today I picked: Computers That Think? The Search for Artificial Intelligence by Margaret D. Hyde.

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And just because I opened up to such an awesome picture I’ll post that below the excerpt. The section I opened up to reads:

The word “robot” did not come into popular use until the early 1920’s with the appearance of a play called R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots) in which artificial zombie-like creatures took over the world. Although there are many definitions of robots today, they are generally described as creatures, or machines that function under their own power and control. (Hyde, 1982, p.52)

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So, according to this book we now know how the word robot came into the vernacular. The writer Karel Capek was a Czech writer who mainly wrote science fiction stuff including R.U.R. and War With The Newts. R.U.R. deals with robots so real they are often mistaken for humans and can think and act on their own. The usual A.I. plot twist occurs in which the robots that were made to serve, rebel, and well we know that never ends well. Or does it? I don’t know in this case I’ve never heard of the play so you may have to find out for yourself.

Project Gutenberg has all the info, including full text of the script here if you want to indulge in some sci-fi drama and get all the details.

The idea of artificial intelligence and robots are a hot topic in the science fiction genre, and have been for a long time. I just recently got absorbed into this while watching Westworld, which I think I already blogged about so I won’t get too deep into that again. On one hand I like to think that it would be impossible to fool me and that there will never be a robot built so realistic that I couldn’t tell that it wasn’t human. But on the other hand I am not even sure if I could do the Pepsi Challenge and make it through. I think the fascination in all of this is that with artificial intelligence we are trying to create something that can make its own choices, and develop emotions and logic, but also something that we can control, which seems pretty impossible. I’m not entirely comfortable with it, I don’t even really think that roombas are that helpful, but that’s just me. I think that the less it looks like a human the better, those mechanical arms at the factories don’t bug me as much as something that looks like me, the discernable difference between those two types of robots is comforting. It’s a big argument, why even toy with artificial intelligence, what can we gain by creating something as close to human as possible?

Well anyways, it’s a debate for sure. But at least we learned one thing for the day, and that is how the word “robot” came about.

The whole thing reminds me of a song I once heard….


Hyde, M. (1982). Computers That Think? The Search for Artificial Intelligence. Hillside, New Jersey: Enslow Publishers.


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