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9780262544504

R.U.R. and the Vision of Artificial Life

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  • ISBN13:

    9780262544504

  • ISBN10:

    0262544504

  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2024-01-16
  • Publisher: The MIT Press

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Summary

A new translation of Karel Čapek’s play R.U.R.—which famously coined the term “robot”—and a collection of essays reflecting on the play’s legacy from scientists and scholars who work in artificial life and robotics.

Karel Čapek's “R.U.R.” and the Vision of Artificial Life offers a new, highly faithful translation by Štěpán Šimek of Czech novelist, playwright, and critic Karel Čapek’s play R.U.R.: Rossum’s Universal Robots, as well as twenty essays from contemporary writers on the 1920 play. R.U.R. is perhaps best known for first coining the term “robot” (in Czech, robota means serfdom or arduous drudgery). The twenty essays in this new English edition, beautifully edited by Jitka Čejková, are selected from Robot 100, an edited collection in Czech with perspectives from 100 contemporary voices that was published in 2020 to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the play.

Čapek’s robots were autonomous beings, but biological, not mechanical, made of chemically synthesized soft matter resembling living tissue, like the synthetic humans in Blade Runner, Westworld, or Ex Machina. The contributors to the collection—scientists and other scholars—explore the legacy of the play and its connections to the current state of research in artificial life, or ALife. Throughout the book, it is impossible to ignore Čapek’s prescience, as his century-old science fiction play raises contemporary questions with respect to robotics, synthetic biology, technology, artificial life, and artificial intelligence, anticipating many of the formidable challenges we face today.

Contributors
Jitka Čejková, Miguel Aguilera, Iñigo R. Arandia, Josh Bongard, Julyan Cartwright, Seth Bullock, Dominique Chen, Gusz Eiben, Tom Froese, Carlos Gershenson, Inman Harvey, Jana Horáková, Takashi Ikegami, Sina Khajehabdollahi, George Musser, Geoff Nitschke, Julie Nováková, Antoine Pasquali, Hemma Philamore, Lana Sinapayen, Hiroki Sayama, Nathaniel Virgo, Olaf Witkowski

Author Biography

Karel Čapek (1890–1938) was a Czech novelist, short story writer, playwright, and essayist best known for his dystopian works. He was the author of War with the Newts, The Makropulos Affair, The Absolute at Large, The White Disease, and many other notable works.

Jitka Čejková is Associate Professor in the Chemical Robotics Laboratory at the University of Chemistry and Technology Prague. Her research focuses on how chemical engineers can contribute to artificial life research.

Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION ix
Jitka Čejková

R.U.R. (ROSSUM’S UNIVERSAL ROBOTS) 1
Karel Čapek, translated by Štěpán S. Šimek

TRANSLATOR’S NOTE 99
ESSAYS 

1 ROBOTS AND THE PRECOCIOUS BIRTH OF SYNTHETIC BIOLOGY 105
Julyan Cartwright 

2 ANOTHER METHOD WITH THE POTENTIAL TO DEVELOP LIFE 117
Nathaniel Virgo

3 HUMANS AND MACHINES: DIFFERENCES AND SIMILARITIES
121
Carlos Gershenson

4 R.U.R. AND THE ROBOT REVOLUTION: INTELLIGENCE AND LABOR, SOCIETY AND AUTONOMY 133
Inman Harvey

5 IT WASN’T WRONG TO DREAM: THE PARADISE OR HELL OF OUR JOBLESS FUTURE 147
Julie Nováková

6 R.U.R.: A SHREWD PLUTOCRAT, A GENIUS ENGINEER, AND AN ANTI-SUE WALK INTO A BAR 153
Lana Sinapayen



7 ARTIFICIAL PANPSYCHISM 161
George Musser

8 WHAT IS “THE SECRET OF LIFE”? THE MIND-BODY PROBLEM IN ČAPEK’S R.U.R. 169
Tom Froese

9 THE ROBOT 177
Jana Horáková

10 IS THE “SOUL” SYNONYMOUS WITH CONSCIOUSNESS? 193
Sina Khajehabdollahi

11 SCIENCE WITHOUT CONSCIENCE IS THE SOUL’S PERDITION 199
Antoine Pasquali

12 KAREL ČAPEK: THE VISIONARY OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AND ARTIFICIAL LIFE 207
Hiroki Sayama

13 ROSSUM’S UNIVERSAL XENOBOTS 213
Josh Bongard

14 WHY ARE NO MORE CHILDREN BEING BORN? 217
Hemma Philamore

15 LOVE IN THE TIME OF ROOMBA 221
Seth Bullock

16 THE LESSON OF AFFECTION FROM THE WEAK ROBOTS 227
Dominique Chen

17 GENERATIVE ETHICS IN ARTIFICIAL LIFE 233
Takashi Ikegami

18 FROM R.U.R. TO ROBOT EVOLUTION 241
Geoff Nitschke and Gusz Eiben

19 ROBOTS AT THE EDGE OF CHAOS AND THE PHASE TRANSITIONS OF LIFE 251
Miguel Aguilera and Iñigo R. Arandia

20 ROBOTIC LIFE BEYOND EARTH 259
Olaf Witkowski



AFTERWORD: “THE AUTHOR OF THE ROBOTS DEFENDS HIMSELF” 265
Karel Čapek

CONTRIBUTORS 269
ILLUSTRATION CREDITS 275
NOTES 277
INDEX 289

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