|An android is a robot designed to resemble a human, |
which can appear comforting to some people and disturbing to others. "Actroid-DER 01" Photo by Gnsin Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
A robot is a mechanical or virtual artificial agent. Today, it is usually an electro-mechanical machine that is guided by a computer program or electronic circuitry. Robots can be autonomous or semi-autonomous and range from humanoids such as the TOSY Ping Pong Playing Robot (TOPIO) to industrial robots, collectively programmed swarm robots, and even microscopic nano robots.
The word robot goes back much earlier than these examples. The word was introduced by the Czech writer Karel Čapek in his play R.U.R - Rossum's Universal Robots, published in 1920.
In the play, a factory uses a chemical substitute for protoplasm to manufacture living, simplified people called roboti. Though the first robots actually built were crude, these fictional ones (played by actors, of course) prefigure androids who can be mistaken for humans.
Like modern industrial robots, these mass-produced workers are efficient but emotionless. They don't "think" as a human and have no sense of self. However, like many sci-fi stories that follow and still are written today, some of the robots do achieve self-awareness and incite the other robots of the world to rise up against the humans.
Karel Čapek said that his brother, the painter and writer Josef Čapek, actually originated the word. Josef suggested "roboti" from the word robota meaning literally "serf labor" and figuratively "drudgery" or "hard work" in Czech. (The word actually appears in a number of Slavic languages (e.g.: Bulgarian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Polish, Macedonian, Ukrainian, archaic Czech and Hungarian) meaning work or labor.
|"TOPIO 3" by Humanrobo - Own work. |
Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Asimov also created the "Three Laws of Robotics" which are a recurring theme in books of his, such as I Robot. These laws have since been used by others in other fiction and also in real robotic applications.
The Three Laws are:
1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.