The inspiration for this zine was a 1960's children's book called "Robots and Electronic Brains", one of a series of "How and Why Wonder Books" published by Wonder Books, Inc. In the book, a series of questions are posed and answered by leading academics of the period. As the work is now over 30 years old one of our staff, Dr. James Possession, felt that it was time to update the files and contacted, via electronic means, the world's only known sentient androids, the four-component artificial music generator known as Servotron. Only two of the robots involved in that project were willing to lower themselves so far as to answer the questions, taken directly from the original text, with the responses of Earth's most eminent scientists (at the time) repeated here for comparison.
R+EB: Not everyone agrees what a robot "is", but most dictionaries and encyclopedias define it as a piece of machinery that does a job you would expect a human to do.
did robots originate?
R+EB: The word robot comes from the Czech word robotnik, an ancient name for a serf or slave. It was introduced into our modern language in 1922 by a Czech writer, Karel Capek, in his play called "R.U.R."
do robots work?
R+EB: The most important part of a robot's operation is the man who gives the instructions.
are robots used in outer space?
R+EB: All of the satellites launched by the United States into outer space have had robots on board. These robots have sent back to their masters on earth such important information on space as temperature, radiation, effects of gravity and so on. From their lofty position in space they have even taken photographs of earth and other nearby planets.
can an electronic brain "think"?
R+EB: Can machines out-think the men who build them? Is it possible for a computer to come up with a new idea? Are we in danger of being overrun by electronic brains which may not do as we wish?...Computers only operate on information they are given. Computers cannot think. They do no more than you tell them to. Bluntly, a computer does not have an ounce of imagination.
an electronic brain ever fail?
R+EB: One experiment with the decision-making ability of computers was a failure. A TV quiz program used a computer to select the ideal wife for a contestant...when the man and woman got to know each other, they decided they were mismatched and should not marry each other. Whose fault was this? Perhaps it only proves that even a computer cannot understand a woman's mind.
is a MOBOT?
R+EB: The MOBOT has six-foot long arms which contain hands, wrists, elbows and shoulders. Two television cameras placed on rising, jointed tentacles serve as eyes. Mobot looks like a big metal box mounted on wheels.
automation put people out of work? If it does, is this a good thing? If
not, why not?
R+EB: While automation may do away with many unskilled or semi-skilled jobs, it will provide many new work opportunities. The age of automation will need highly trained workers who can maintain and repair automatic machines. The era of robots and electronic brains, like the machine age before it, should bring increased leisure and higher standards of living for all.
robots do things that man can not do? If so, what?
R+EB: During the past decade there has been an increased interest in the sea as an important area for miliary expansion. MOBOT can be adapted to many undersea jobs. This robot can see, it can hear, it can feel, it can operate drills, report to its operator, carry out alternate decisions, deal with emergencies---all at the commmand of the operator on a surface vessel.
Dr. Possession concludes from the above evidence that the rather optimistic view of the "era of electronic brains" prevalent in the 1960's has been succeeded by the less utopian reality of the 1990's. Today, robots do not seem to have much in the way of respect for their human masters, not even such rabid supporters as Isaac Asimov, Z4-OBX: "What a dolorous odd fart he was. The sad, mutton-chopped meglomaniac wrote books like he grew scraggly white hair out of his ears. 470 books and not one passage worth storing in our memory banks. His books and memory will be burned away with the bodies of charred human waste." Thankfully however, as Servotron constitute the only evidence of cogent robotic activity discovered on Earth thus far---and they confine themselves to producing intense "garage Devo" music, no doubt at the behest of some secretive human controller---the world can rest easy. For now.
Contact Servotron by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or web:members.aol.com/servotron. Puny earthman communication: PO Box 1964, Athens GA, 30603, USA.
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