R.U.R. by Karel Čapek. R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots) premiered in Prague on January 25, 1921. In the years since, robots have been unceasingly abused, or alternately, unceasingly rebellious against their human masters--at least in fiction.
The word “robot” derives from the Czech word robota which means “work” or “labor,” and figuratively “drudgery.” The word was supposedly suggested by Čapek’s brother, Josef. Over time, it’s all but replaced “automaton” which had been previously used for mechanical beings in English.
Interestingly, the robots in R.U.R. aren’t mechanical, but are instead biological constructs--more like what GURPS (Biotech and Transhuman Space) call bioroids (a term they borrowed from the work of Masamune Shirow)--than Robbie, or R2D2. The play clearly has them constructed, though, not grown like synthetic bioorganisms in other science fiction.
In the world of the City, I think there probably is an island where a scientist from Ealderde, Karel Rozum, has already fired up his vats and molds, and made his first organisms from alchemical protoplasm. He’s got a dungeon full of deformities and malformed monsters, the detritus of working the kinks out in his process. But he’ll get it right, eventually...and then what?
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