Friday, 28 November 2008

Real life sci-fi: Čapek was right

Czech playwright Karel Čapek coined the phrase "robot" for a mechanical worker in his 1921 play R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots). This play sees the robot workers rise up against their human masters and take over the world, but be careful about interpreting this as a West-style disaster epic - firstly, this is post-revolution, USSR so the robots are the good guys in a Marxist, proletariat versus bourgeoisie sort of way; secondly Čapek is an indiscriminate satirist and I don't think anyone in any of his plays is excused the sharp edge of his pen.

It seems Čapek may have been on to something. While computers get their digital hands on our companies and transport networks, the robots are making their move too. While our attention has been distracted, over the last few years robots have quietly taken over the choiciest human jobs. I mean, now robots can be camel jockeys, conductors, wine tasters, seals, fishes or sharks - I mean, what does that leave for us?

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