Will Robots Take Over?

Jennifer Dawn Whitney (DCRC) traces the history of our anxieties about robot technology


In contemporary Western culture, we often trace our relationship with automation and robotics to the Industrial Revolution – or, more recently – to a kind of American futurism rooted in the 1950s. Wedged between these two moments of modernity we find the word ‘robot’, which came into usage in the 1920s.

But the idea of the robot is much, much older. Storytellers in ancient Greece, Egypt, and China conjured up many dazzling images of intelligent machines, automata, and artificial life.

Visions of forged bronze servants and beguiling living statues populated myth and legend for centuries, but the reality of such an invention remained out of reach.

It wasn’t until the 1700s and early 1800s that these fantasies began to take on actual mechanical features. During this period in the West – The Age of Enlightenment – there were great strides made in science and technology. Life-like machines and automata started to materialise, setting the stage for contemporary robotic. [Read More]

Jennifer Dawn Whitney is a Research Fellow with the Digital Cultures Research Centre. She is working on a project entitled ‘The Automation of Everyday Life’.  She tweets @dcrcuk under #EverydayAutomation.

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