Each article in this “Classic Creatures” series will define the classic creature, give you examples of it and provide resources and information about it righ here in Long Beach.
What are robots and androids?
This, my dear reader, is one of my favorite topics! I love how robots and androids can be used as metaphors for so many things in speculative fiction. But what are they in the first place. Here are some easy definitions to keep in mind:
- Robot – a machine capable of carrying out a complex series of actions automatically, in speculative fiction robots are often humanoid in form
- Android – A robot with a human appearance, specifically a male, but sometimes is uses generically to include those with a female appearance
- Gynoid – A female android
- Cyborg – A living creature with integrated machine or robotic parts that often make it “better” than it would have been without the enhancements
Robots and androids use artificial intelligence to think, reason and perform the tasks it was built to perform. This sets them apart from cyborgs, which more often than not rely on the original biological creature’s brain for thought.
The term “robot” comes from Czechoslovakian playwright Karel Capek’s R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots) written in 1920 and performed in 1921. The robots in the play were actually artificial living beings created chemically rather than mechanically. But the word, as it is used today, refers to mechanically created “creatures.”
Examples of robots and androids
Isaac Asimov was probably the most prolific writer about robots and coined the now classic “Three laws of robotics.” These laws formed the structure and plot points of his numerous robot short stores and novels. Probably the most well known of his robot stories is The Bicentennial Man, which started off as a novella and has since been expanded into a novel and adapted into a film starring Robin Williams.
In 1982, Klaus Kinski starred in a film called Android. He plays a scientist working on an illegal android project on a space lab orbiting Earth. Max 404, the lead android in the film is often thought to be, in part, the inspiration for Data, the android in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
The first robot on film was actually a gynoid. In the 1927 German expressionist film Metropolis, directed by Fritz Lang, an evil scientist, Rotwang, creates a robot in the image of Maria, a woman who is an inspiration to the workers in a futuristic city. He plans to use his creation to destroy the city, its founder and the founder’s son.
The Borg are cybernetic organisms, part sentient creature (human or alien) and part machine. Introduced in Star Trek: The Next Generation they have continued to be popular villains in later extensions of the Star Trek franchise.
For more information about robots and androids, you might want to read some of my posts at YesterYearsFuture.com:
- Robots in Science Fiction
- The Terror and Appeal of the Machine
- Sentience, Humanity and Robots
Long Beach robots and androids
Long Beach has a quite a few ties to the robotics industry.
Long Beach City College has an Underwater Robotics team which placed second in an international competition featuring schools from six countries.
DENSO Robotics, which specializes in robots for the automotive industry, is based here in Long Beach.
The Long Beach Harbor Lighthouse is often called the “robot light” because it is a fully automatic light house, robotically controlled.
The First Regional Robotic Competition, which pitted student-built robots against each other, was held in Long Beach this past March.
Do you see the world through genre-coloured glasses? For more science fiction, fantasy and horror news and information — with a travel twist, check out The Genre Traveler, the travel resource for science fiction, fantasy and horror fans, at www.thegenretraveler.com.