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Corporate Robotics Week

Rethink Robotics, Rod Brooks’ AI-meets-factory-robot startup, shut down last week illustrating that making robots and, perhaps more importantly, making money from making robots is hard. It turns out that robot companies in scifi often have the same problem, so this week RTSF will explore fiction where a robotics corporation has a starring role. While R.U.R., the play that created the term “robot”, was set in a factory amid some boardroom politics and thus is technically the first corporate robotics fiction, the grand-daddy of robot corporations has to be Asimov’s US Robots and Mechanical Men. US Robots and Mechanical Men is the company that provided the robots (and memorable characters such as Dr. Susan Calvin and the bickering diagnostic team of Donavan and Powell) for the I, Robot series of short stories. In honor of US Robots and Mechanical Men, Corporate Robotics Week will start with a review of the movie I, Robot. Corporate greed in robotics will also be covered. It is a popular theme, with the Omni Consumer Products in RoboCop leading the pack closely followed by Xymos’ break-all-the-rules start up attitude in Micheal Crichton’s Prey as companies you love to hate. But don’t forget defense contractors like Cyberdyne Systems in the Terminator series or the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, whose only profitable division is the complaints department. There’s also robot corporate rivalries in Q.U.R, a short story. by the science fiction golden age editor, Anthony Boucher. Look for a slideshow podcast at the end of the week. A big shout out to the reddit/sciencefiction members who helped point out some of these books.

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