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Wednesday, 12 March 2014


From: Ptak Science Books

“The concept of high-tech machines shaped like humans has been with us for the better part of a century. The word ‘robot’ itself, derived from the old Slavonic word rabota, meaning ‘servitude’, dates back to 1921, when it appeared in the Czech play R U R (Rossum’s Universal Robots) by Karel Čapek. Then, the robots in the play were, of course, played by human actors, and thus humanoid in appearance. Yet this early work set the stage for what form robots should take in our imagination; from the novels and short stories of Isaac Asimov to the androids of the movies, they have, for the most part, looked, acted, and even experienced the world like us. [...]"
— Michael Belfiore, aeon
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“I’ve addressed the ideas of early mechanical men elsewhere in this blog (just enter 'robot' in the site search box at left and you'll find two or three dozen related posts on the subject), but failed to include this very fine and early example by William Heath in his March of Intellect series (printed from 1825-1829). He was particularly bitter about what he saw as an aristocracy of official ruination, and created an unusual steam-driven mechanical man with a book-driven intellect that swept up the great ‘rubbish’ and ‘dust’ of society. At the top of this early robot (preceding the invention of the term by about 100 years) was a pile of books with a ‘crown of many towers,’ which was London University, beneath which was a set of gas-light eyes, iron arms, and legs made of printer's tools, sweeping away useless and insulting lawyers and jurists and their legal wigs and obsolete and repetitive rules, medical quacks, and the dust of other official abuses, ‘sweeping rubbish from the land.’”
— Ptak Science Books
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