Robots in Science Fiction
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Robots in Science Fiction

The concept of the artificial human has been a central theme in science fiction since Mary Shelley published Frankenstein in 1819. The artificial human has appeared in a number of different guises: as robot, android, cyborg and replicant.

The concept of the artificial human has been a central theme in science fiction since Mary Shelley published Frankenstein in 1819. The artificial human has appeared in a number of different guises: as robot, android, cyborg and replicant. Each persona has different implications. The artificial human is a polysemic figure, which has been used to explore anxieties surrounding technology, conformity, slavery and racial difference, depending on the cultural preoccupations of the period.

The term ‘robot’ comes from the Czech word robota, meaning drudge or slave. It was first used to denote a mechanical man in a play by Karel Capek called Rossum’s Universal Robots (1920). So the word is relatively new, but the concept is much older. Frankenstein was one of the first texts to deal with the idea of an artificial man. This was a morality tale about science being used to create life without reckoning upon God. Metropolis (1927) was a key representation, in which robots are being produced to replace human workers. This responded to contemporary fears that technology was displacing humanity. More recently, I, Robot presented artificial humans as modern-day slaves and examined themes of race.

The image of the artificial human varies according to the anxieties of the period. In the 1980s, for examples, the most common image was the cyborg (cybernetic organism), a hybrid of man and machine. Robocop is a cyborg because he is a human who has been mutilated and whose body has been rebuilt; technology is keeping him alive. The poster spells out the definition: part-man, part-machine.

Likewise, the Terminator is a cyborg because it consists of living tissue over a metallic endo-skeleton.

In the Star Wars films, Darth Vader is a cyborg – he’s a living man who has been cybernetically enhanced to the point where he is ‘more machine now than man.’ The cyborg usually personifies the fear that technology is changing us, invading our bodies and slowly destroying our humanity.

Science fiction has always dealt with the relationship between the human and the robot, but combining the two into a hybrid being is a particular trend of the 1980s. The cyborg is a fusion of the human body and technology and it has been argued that both of these things were central concerns of the 1980s.

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Comments (2)
Ranked #10 in Popular Culture

Great sci-fi feature Michael.

Wow! Awesome share...great pics. Thanks for positing. Voted

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