The Original Robots Were Flesh and Bone

When you think of science fiction robots, you probably think of Bender, or R2D2, or Tom Servo, or Gort, right? Human-like mechanical characters?

Yeah, no.

The word 'robot' was actually invented in 1921 for the play, "R.U.R" by Karel Capek. Those robots were more like artificial humans, people grown in vats and assembled as needed, but not considered to be real people.

There are lots of other artificial humans in fiction. Probably the most famous assembled artificial man is Frankenstein's nameless creature in Mary Shelley's 1818 novel. Victor Frankenstein put him together out of organs stolen from cadavers.

Another literary artificial human is R. Daneel Olivaw, in Isaac Asimov's Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun, and The Robots of Dawn.

More currently, we have the soldiers in John Scalzi's Old Man's War (and its sequels), and the Cylons in the 2003 remake of Battlestar Galactica (and the many tie-in novels).

So far, most of these have been artificial humans assembled from organic parts. The exception are the Cylons, who were also grown in vats, but in one piece. No assembly required. But then, what about Neo, in The Matrix?

Neo was also grown in a vat. So, is he human or not? If he is, then are Cylons human? If human-ness comes being born in one piece, do we stop being human when we get a transplant -- when we get a part replaced? Something to think about.

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