R.U.R. and the Vision of Artificial Life (Paperback)

R.U.R. and the Vision of Artificial Life By Karel Capek, Jitka Cejkova (Editor) Cover Image
By Karel Capek, Jitka Cejkova (Editor)
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A new translation of Karel Čapek’s play R.U.R.—which famously coined the term “robot”—and a collection of essays reflecting on the play’s legacy from scientists and scholars who work in artificial life and robotics.

Karel Čapek's “R.U.R.” and the Vision of Artificial Life offers a new, highly faithful translation by Štěpán Šimek of Czech novelist, playwright, and critic Karel Čapek’s play R.U.R.: Rossum’s Universal Robots, as well as twenty essays from contemporary writers on the 1920 play. R.U.R. is perhaps best known for first coining the term “robot” (in Czech, robota means serfdom or arduous drudgery). The twenty essays in this new English edition, beautifully edited by Jitka Čejková, are selected from Robot 100, an edited collection in Czech with perspectives from 100 contemporary voices that was published in 2020 to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the play.

Čapek’s robots were autonomous beings, but biological, not mechanical, made of chemically synthesized soft matter resembling living tissue, like the synthetic humans in Blade Runner, Westworld, or Ex Machina. The contributors to the collection—scientists and other scholars—explore the legacy of the play and its connections to the current state of research in artificial life, or ALife. Throughout the book, it is impossible to ignore Čapek’s prescience, as his century-old science fiction play raises contemporary questions with respect to robotics, synthetic biology, technology, artificial life, and artificial intelligence, anticipating many of the formidable challenges we face today.

Jitka Čejková, Miguel Aguilera, Iñigo R. Arandia, Josh Bongard, Julyan Cartwright, Seth Bullock, Dominique Chen, Gusz Eiben, Tom Froese, Carlos Gershenson, Inman Harvey, Jana Horáková, Takashi Ikegami, Sina Khajehabdollahi, George Musser, Geoff Nitschke, Julie Nováková, Antoine Pasquali, Hemma Philamore, Lana Sinapayen, Hiroki Sayama, Nathaniel Virgo, Olaf Witkowski

About the Author

Karel Čapek (1890–1938) was a Czech novelist, short story writer, playwright, and essayist best known for his dystopian works. He was the author of War with the Newts, The Makropulos Affair, The Absolute at Large, The White Disease, and many other notable works.

Jitka Čejková is Associate Professor in the Chemical Robotics Laboratory at the University of Chemistry and Technology Prague. Her research focuses on how chemical engineers can contribute to artificial life research.

Praise For…

“R.U.R. is fascinating and bizarre. . . . The most important contribution of the volume is a new translation of the play by Štěpán Šimek . . . who manages to capture the surreal weirdness of Čapek's dark comedy of errors while making the text accessible to contemporary audiences. . . . Čapek's masterpiece reminds us first that just because we can does not mean we should.”

“[The essays] are full of surprising insights and together constitute a fascinating experiment in how scientists might cast new light on a literary classic. In the process, they confirm the prescience of the radical questions Čapek raised a hundred years ago. . . . In our age of ChatGPT . . . we may return to Čapek for his prescient sense of how market logic underwrites scientific certainty, and vice versa.” Los Angeles Review of Books

“Makes for fascinating reading.”
IEEE Spectrum

“A must-read for anyone interested in ALife.”
Irish Times

“We are still reading [Čapek] today, and as R.U.R and the Vision of Artificial Life shows, finding new significance in everything that emerged from minds such as . . . Čapek’s.”
Orwell Society

“The translation of the play, by Štĕpán Šimek, is a revelation. . . . The book is well worth buying and adding to reading lists on the basis of Šimek's achievement. . . . Fans of Čapek, and proponents of the possibilities of literature for investigating histories and philosophies of science, should be grateful to Jitka Čejková and Štĕpán Šimek for introducing his wonderful work to a new generation.”
British Journal for the History of Science

"Čapek’s far-seeing tragicomic satire blurs the lines between the human and the biomechanical."
Arts Fuse

Product Details
ISBN: 9780262544504
ISBN-10: 0262544504
Publisher: The MIT Press
Publication Date: January 16th, 2024
Pages: 312
Language: English

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