A robot is a mechanical or virtual intelligent agent that can perform tasks automatically or with guidance, typically by remote control. In practice a robot is usually an electro-mechanical machine that is guided by computer and electronic programming. Robots can be autonomous, semi-autonomous or remotely controlled. Robots range from humanoids such as ASIMO and TOPIO to Nano robots, Swarm robots, Industrial robots, military robots, mobile and servicing robots. By mimicking a lifelike appearance or automating movements, a robot may convey a sense that it has intent or agency of its own. The branch of technology that deals with robots is robotics.
The word robot was introduced to the public by the Czech interwar writer Karel Čapek (January 9, 1890 – December 25, 1938) in his play R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots), published in 1920. The play begins in a factory that makes artificial people called robots, though they are closer to the modern ideas of androids, creatures who can be mistaken for humans. They can plainly think for themselves, though they seem happy to serve. At issue is whether the robots are being exploited and the consequences of their treatment.
Karel Čapek himself did not coin the word. He wrote a short letter in reference to an etymology in the Oxford English Dictionary in which he named his brother, the painter and writer Josef Čapek, as its actual originator.
In an article in the Czech journal Lidové noviny in 1933, he explained that he had originally wanted to call the creatures laboři ("workers", from Latin labor) or dělňasi (from Czech dělníci - "workers"). However, he did not like the word, and sought advice from his brother Josef, who suggested "roboti". The word robota means literally "corvée", "serf labor", and figuratively "drudgery" or "hard work" in Czech and also (more general) "work", "labor" in many Slavic languages (e.g.: Slovak, Polish, Macedonian, Ukrainian, archaic Czech). Traditionally the robota was the work period a serf (corvée) had to give for his lord, typically 6 months of the year. The origin of the word is the Old Church Slavonic rabota "servitude" ("work" in contemporary Bulgarian and Russian), which in turn comes from the Indo-European root *orbh-. Serfdom was outlawed in 1848 in
, so at the time Čapek wrote R.U.R., usage of the term robota had
broadened to include various types of work, but the obsolete sense of
"serfdom" would still have been known. It is not clear from which
language Čapek took the radix "robot(a)". This question is not
irrelevant, because its answer could help to reveal an original Čapek´s
conception of robots. If from the modern Czech language, the notion of robot
should be understood as an „automatic serf“ (it means a subordinated creature
without own will). If from e.g. Slovak (Karel Čapek and his brother were
frequent visitors of Bohemia which in this time was a part of Slovakia , because their father MUDr. Antonín Čapek from 1916 worked as a
physician in Trenčianske Teplice, the word robot would simply mean a
„worker“ which is a more universal and neutral notion. The aspect of
pronunciation probably also played a role in Čapek's final decision: In
non-Slavic languages it is easier to pronounce the word robot than dělňas or
The word robotics, used to describe this field of study, was coined by the science fiction writer Isaac Asimov (January 2, 1920 – April 6, 1992). Asimov created the "Three Laws of Robotics" which are a recurring theme in his books.
The Three Laws of Robotics (often shortened to The Three Laws or Three Laws). Were introduced in his 1942 short story "Runaround", although they had been foreshadowed in a few earlier stories. The Three Laws are:
- A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
- A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
- A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
These form an organizing principle and unifying theme for Asimov's robotic-based fiction, appearing in his Robot series, the stories linked to it, and his Lucky Starr series of young-adult fiction. The Laws are incorporated into almost all of the positronic robots appearing in his fiction, and cannot be bypassed, being intended as a safety feature. Many of Asimov's robot-focused stories involve robots behaving in unusual and counter-intuitive ways as an unintended consequence of how the robot applies the Three Laws to the situation in which it finds itself. Other authors working in Asimov's fictional universe have adopted them and references, often parodic, appear throughout science fiction as well as in other genres.
The original laws have been altered and elaborated on by Asimov and other authors. Asimov himself made slight modifications to the first three in various books and short stories to further develop how robots would interact with humans and each other; he also added a fourth, or zeroth law, to precede the others:
0. A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.
source: Wikipedia and several