We’ve been afraid of robots for a lot longer than they’ve even been a reality. In fact, we’ve been afraid of robots for far longer than we’ve even called them “robots.”
For many, the idea of a “robotic uprising” brings to mind images of the T-800 from the Terminator series – a chrome skeleton, red-eyed, crushing human skulls under its feet. But the Terminator series has roots in fiction that predate modern robotics by a considerable margin: namely the story of Frankenstein’s Monster, which was published in 1818.
Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein was a critique of technology run amok, progress unchained by human emotions or sensitivities, and inspired at least in part by the ancient Hebrew myth of the Golem. While stories of Golems date back to Old Testament times and center around the idea of an artificial person, usually made of mud, given life through magic.
A soulless, shambling approximation of humanity, devoid of empathy or reason, run amok and wreaking havoc amongst good and decent people – this is the cultural template that we have applied to robots, a reputation they have not earned and do not deserve.
Even the story of the Terminator isn’t about the evil of machines, but the evil programmed into them by humans. So then, why are we so afraid of robots? We’re glad you asked.
Uprising is a Freethink original series that acknowledges and examines our fears, one by one. In each episode, you’ll explore the places and people responsible for the latest advancements in robotics news, research, and tech.
From the “cobots” that could steal your job to the cuter, emotional robots already living in our homes, this series provides an in-depth look at what’s to come in the not-too-distant future of robotic technology.