Karel Capeks R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots)

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In 1920 Karl Capek wrote a play called “R.U.R” about a society in which people created robots and these robots in turn decided to destroy their “masters” the humans.  The leader of the group and creator of the robots is  a Harry Domin thought he was doing the world a great favor because humans would no longer have to work anymore, since the robots would do the work for them. I think this was the flaw in his plan because I think intrinsically humans want to work rather than sitting home and doing nothing all day.

This robot issue becomes further complicated in the fact that they look like humans so no one is able to tell a robot or human alike.  This line becomes more blurred when Domin tells his guest Helena the daughter of the president  that he will take the robot to the dissecting room to take a look at her (11)  potential murdering her in the process.  Domin himself even says “machines can’t be killed”(11).  Helena herself disapproves of this treatment when she tells Domin that her league of humanity  “wants to liberate the robots”(18).   Their is one character who is the aunt of Helena who thinks the robot characters are ungodly and not natural. Another character a Dr. Gall who runs the psychological division of the robots believes that due to these robots have “is virtually an anachronism”(39) so much so that people have stopped reproducing.

I think the main things conflicting throughout this play are nature vs machine if one will destroy the other.  Also, it questions where this technology is really a good thing.  Kapek wrote this play after world war and the beginning of the industrial revolution so he had similar questions for his own generation.  This play came about during the time of the first world war where men were going off to war and not returning, their were new technologies being introduced in warfare, and the standard of living had drastically changed from a decade ago.

Along with this play commenting on the industrial revolution in the 1900′s, I think it is also comparing the robots in a sense to the working class. The working class  being the jobs that most people do not want to do like working in a factory, on a farm, etc.  I think this appropriate given that the term robot was used to mean a serf/someone who serves others.

The problem with the robots serving others is that at some point they will realize that they do not like the humans they are serving and will want to take over, and I won’t blame them.  This can even be shown in such dystopian shows as Dollhouse and Battlestar Gallatica in which the cylons destroy much of the human race.  So I have to ask my readers is technology evolving to the point of robots a good thing? Also do you like me also thing their is some social commentary hidden behind this science fiction facade about how those in the working class are treated?

p.s. I know they are class issues being discussed at hand this play but I think I will save it for another post

 


 

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