Question:Where do the terms "robot" and "robotics" come from?

Answer: In 1921, as social upheavals shook Europe in the aftermath of World War I, Czech playwright Karel Capek's play "R.U.R.," for "Rossum's Universal Robots," premiered in Prague. The play told of artificial humans, or robots, created solely to be slave workers. "Robot" comes from the Czech word "robota," meaning "forced labor, drudgery, servitude." In "R.U.R.," the robots eventually overthrow their human masters.

(Some sources say Capek's brother, Josef, suggested to him that he use the term robot in "R.U.R." Capek is pronounced CHAH-pehk.)

The late Isaac Asimov (1920-92), the prolific author of science fiction and books popularizing science, claimed credit for "robotics" as a term for the science and technology of robots.

In his 1942 sci-fi story "Runaround," Asimov stated the ethical guidelines he called the "Three Laws of Robotics":

1. A robot must not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where those orders would conflict with the First Law.

3. A robot must protect its own existence, except where such protection would conflict with the First or Second Law.

Despite his interest in nearly every aspect of science, Asimov says in his 1983 book "Counting the Eons" that he had scant knowledge about how real robots might work when he came up with his three laws.