Humanity is on the edge of the new dawn of the mechanical man. Will they be friendly and lovable like our gay robot pals like C3P0 and Twiki from Buck Rodgers or will they be bloodthirsty kill-bots, hell bent on the eradication of man like every other science-fiction story ever conceived? What about the term “robot”? Just where the fuck did it come from? What about robot boobs, or as we here at Geekscape call them, “robotitties”? All of these questions will be answered in this week’s installment of History of The Nerd.
For as long as there has been human life, humanity has always looked for ways they could get out of all that pain in the ass work. Unfortunately, for most of human existence the technology just wasn’t available to create an artificial man, so we resorted to abducting people, taking away their freedom and making them do the shit nobody else wanted to do through brute force. Slaves were robots 1.0.
Automations: Robots’ special needs older brothers.
In about 1495, before he set work to create his famous painting of the Last Supper, Leonardo da Vinci set about creating a mechanical man. I guess he thought Jesus could take a back seat. This machine was a man dressed in a full German-Italian suit of armor typical of the late 18th century. It was designed to sit up, wave its arm, move his head and open his anatomically correct jaw. Leonardo’s robot wasn’t really a robot. It was a really great, automated, puppet that worked with a series of cables and cranks that simulated muscle movement. Not to say that it wasn’t impressive, I mean it was even programmable through an analog controller in its chest. He was pretty much the first of Disneyland-style animatronics like the Johnny Depp on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride — impressive but not a robot. (While the animatronic Johnny Depp is not a robot, the jury is still out on the real one.) Leonardo was inspired by ancient Greek text that described automations like Ctesibus who created water clocks and organs that had little moving figures.
Of course, the Japanese could not and would not stay out of the race. If there is ever going to be robotic-fuck-slaves it will be Japan that makes the breakthrough. They are more obsessed with robots then they are with soiled undiepants from schoolgirls and apparently they always have been. Tanaka Hisashige, also known as the “Thomas Edison of Japan”, created a dazzling array of extremely complex mechanical toys during his lifetime from 1799 to 1881. These “toys” were able to serve tea, fire arrows from a quiver and even perform calligraphy artwork. The only thing they weren’t able to do was to take down the entire shaft and cup the balls correctly.
Etymology of Robot: Just where the fuck did it come from?
We could all blame the future plague of robot overlords on the freaking Czech. The Czech with their fancy pants stable political system, their delicious roast pork and their awesomely hot porn stars will bring about the “robot” holocaust because they invented the word “robot”. If it weren’t for them we’d all call it the “automation” holocaust or “android” holocaust, but they just do not evoke the 50’s style terror that “robot” does. It all started with Dr. Karel ÄŒapek and a play that he wrote –R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots).
In the play there is a factory that creates people. They are called “Robots” but they were not the metal men of modern science fiction. They were flesh and blood, more like clones or the Cylon “Skin Jobs” from Battlestar Galactica. These Robots were, of course, slaves, but happy slaves that loved nothing more then to help out their fellow masters — at first. This play was the first to have robots, and as the first it also set the rules for all other stories that would use robots as a central theme for the rest of time. One of the major rules is that if you have robot slaves you will eventually have a robot uprising. This one was no different, but it does end with the happiest of endings, the death of all humans.
The word “robot” actually is a shortened from the word “robota” which means “labor” in Czech and “Rossum” is a play on the word “rozum” meaning “reason”, “wisdom”, “intellect” or “common-sense”. The play was eventually re-made into a film of the same name by American filmmaker James Kerwin. The movie eventually went on to popularize the term.
The Singularity: We are all totally fucked.
Machines are getting smarter and smarter at an accelerated rate. Moore’s Law states that the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits will grow at an exponential rate of doubling every year for the foreseeable future. This means that computers are getting smarter while humans stay the same. A 16 year-old’s iMac is already smarter than half of this year’s graduating class of high school teenagers. A “technological explosion”, described by British statistician I.J. Good, is in the works already. I.J. Good theorized that if machines could surpass human intelligence even in the slightest, then they would be able to improve on their own designs in way their original dumber, weaker, monkey designers could never had conceived. This would lead to and exponential jump in artificial intelligence leaving us humans behind. In other words the role would be reversed. We will become their monkey slaves and there ain’t shit we can do about it.
People may think that we shouldn’t worry, that our Robot overlords would take care of all the work for us. We would live in a utopia made of happy, happy feelings and gumdrops. These people are, of course, mentally ill. I’m not sure that machines that are smarter are going to to be more compassionate. We’re thought, by us, to be smarter than anything on the planet and we’ve made actual living creatures extinct — quite a few of them. What makes us think that when we get knocked down the intellectual food chain that the same thing couldn’t happen to us. Let’s face it; the final train to Auschwitz is on its way and Skynet’s in the conductor seat. I just hope that Gigolo Joes and Gigolo Janes are invented so we can get our cyber-freak on before they nuke us to Judgement Day.