R.U.R. and the Vision of Artificial Life
312 pp., 6 x 9 in, 28 b&w illus.
- Published: January 2, 2024
- Publisher: The MIT Press
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.
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.
“This indispensable volume offers a new English translation of Čapek's influential play, restoring its original structure, as the accompanying array of essays provide valuable context and interpretation. Čapek's prescient meditation on human-android relations is timely and necessary.”
Mark Kingwell, Professor of Philosophy, University of Toronto; author of Singular Creatures
“More relevant now than ever, this is Karel Čapek's fascinating and visionary story about (artificial) life, science, soul, and love. The play is complemented with modern reflections on creation and humanity by artificial life scientists.”
Steen Rasmussen, Professor in Physics, University of Southern Denmark; coeditor of Protocells: Bridging Nonliving and Living Matter
“I was thrilled by this brilliant new translation of R.U.R., the original robot uprising tale, that is as relevant today as it was a century ago. This is a must-have book for anyone interested in the history of technology and its impact on politics and society.”
Annalee Newitz, author of Autonomous and The Terraformers