The robot century

Robots have been part of human culture for 100 years. How can we ensure that they support – rather than supplant – humans over the next 100?

A robot serving customers earlier this month at Hajime Robot Restaurant, a Japanese eatery in Bangkok. As robots play a greater role in society, we will need to adapt our laws to accommodate them. As long as there is transparency and we maintain human control, our legal systems will cope. PHOTO: EPA–EFE

The word "robot" entered the modern lexicon 100 years ago today with the premiere at Prague's National Theatre of Karel Capek's play, R.U.R.

Set on an island "somewhere on our planet", Rossum's Universal Robots recounts the creation of roboti. Not so much mechanical creatures as stripped-down versions of humans, they were biological entities created to be strong and intelligent, but without souls.

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