Our Universal Robots

Friday, April 18, 2014


The word 'robot' first appeared in 1920 in Karel Čapek's play, Rossum's Universal Robots. Since then, intelligent machines have starred countless times in novels and films. Brooke talks with professor Jay P. Telotte about the ways our fears and fascinations with robots are reflected in culture. 

Music: Calexico - Attack El Robot! Attack! Special thanks to @bartona104 (Julia Barton) for the suggestion on Twitter!


Jay P. Telotte

Hosted by:

Brooke Gladstone

Comments [7]

Jonathan Slate from Massachusetts

I loved the big orange head joke. I was listening to the show in bed with headphones, and I actually woke up my wife giggling. She, however, did not think it was funny. Niether did either of my kids, my nephew, or my father-in-law. I think they might be robots.

Aug. 15 2014 08:40 PM
Yosephus from Los Angeles

Wrong, Brooke Gladstone, Robby the Robot was not the same as Will Robinson's robot on Lost In Space, although he did have at least one guest cameo. Aren't you journalists supposed to fact-check this stuff? And you call yourself a sci-fi nerd?

Apr. 21 2014 05:36 PM
James from Pasadena, CA

I really enjoyed the theme this weeek. Yes, Brooke (or some production person) screwed up with the Lost in Space robot reference (officially called "B-9" and silver in color, not black like Robby). I'm one of those who thinks that as soon as robots and computers figure out they're smarter and more capable than we are, we will be in big trouble (try talking with a real person at AT&T!), but by that time it will be too late. This is the plot of "Colossus: the Forbin Project". If we're lucky, it'll be more like "Futurama", where robots are just as selfish and lazy as we are.

Apr. 20 2014 11:07 PM
Maggie Sullivan from Brattleboro, VT

I love the big orange head joke. Here's my favorite joke: An elephant and a mouse were talking. The elephant said "My goodness you look small." The mouse said "Well, I've been sick."

Apr. 20 2014 05:02 PM
shag from West


Don't be so hard on yourself... nerds rule. OTM could use more nerds and fewer posers. In fact OTM's glaring error on something as easily fact-checkable as Robby's filmography only serves to call into question the accuracy of the rest of their story. Ironically, a robot probably would have gotten it right... Beep.

Apr. 20 2014 01:18 PM
adam chinitz

Nerd Alert: Robby the Robot did not have the signature role in "Lost In Space" , That character (?) was called The Robot, and he (?) was a separate creation. Robby the Robot did make an appearance in an episode of the series and they do share some physical characteristics.

Apr. 19 2014 12:33 PM
EB from Near 84 PA

What a great episode of OTM... I enjoyed it a lot... Of the many movies re: computers/AI is one that is not a Sci Fi story.... Desk Set, Katherine Hepburn, Spencer Tracey... http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0050307/?ref_=nv_sr_1 which may be of interest to other fans of this episode.

Apr. 19 2014 10:08 AM

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