A “robot” should be chemical, not steel, argues man who coined the word

M. Robert Gibson

Feb 10, 2018
Interesting. I’ve learned something new here:)

I checked out the etymology and it looks like Capek coined the word from robota, which is Czech for ’forced labour’.

If this is correct then there’s certainly nothing in the word to indicate that it has to be mechanical.
No, but then he didn’t coin the word ‘robot’ either. He wrote in Czech, and his play R.U.R. ends with the word “roboti”, coining a noun for artificial ‘forced labour’ machines from the Czech ‘robota’. The English use of ‘robot’, meaning what we all understand by it in our language, was first used by Asimov, I believe, who derived it from R.U.R. It’s more up to him what a robot should be I suspect, but then Asimov described both machine and humanoid robots, so he left it entirely open.
Conceptually, Capek's vision is closely analogous to the current fashion in AI: Force a system to learn and involve via exposure to real world inputs in a manner that is opaque. One imagines a complex chemical precursor that is poked, shocked and prodded until it starts to show behavior. And then it given increasingly complex interactions until it becomes a type of being. Capek's naivete seems to be that it would be influenced to take on a roughly human form. But that's little different than Asimov presuming the same.

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