Robots were dreamt up 100 years ago – why haven’t our fears about them changed since?

The world's first robots, created by playwright Karl Čapek, appeared on a Prague stage in January 1921. This long read asks: why are we still in thrall to Čapek's once-original narrative?

This is a story you will have heard before.

A genius but completely mad scientist – with the backing of a ruthlessly greedy corporation – creates a sentient robot. The scientist’s intentions for the robot are noble: to help us work, to save us from mundane tasks, to serve its human masters.

But the scientist is over-confident, and blind to the dangers of his new invention. Those that prophesied such warnings are dismissed as luddites, or hopeless romantics not in step with the modern world. But the threat is real: the intelligent, artificial being is not content being a compliant slave.

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