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The first robots

By Gwynne Dyer       

Real AI will arrive in some form in the not-too-distant future, but predicting its social and political impact is hard. As hard as it would have been for the Čapek brothers and their audience to foresee in 1921 what robotics would really mean for people in 2021.

It was the humanoid fallacy. In more recent movies, human-seeming robots are even tragic figures, like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s version of The Terminator, pictured, or Roy Batty, the android anti-hero of Blade Runner, reminiscing sadly as he dies. Image courtesy of Orion Pictures

LONDON, U.K.—They were planning to put on a play written by an artificial intelligence program in Prague in January, to mark the invention of robots (or at least the idea of robots) in the same city exactly 100 years ago. COVID-19 got in the way of that, and it will now only be available free online late in February. Kind of symbolic, really: the future is quite different than they expected.

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