The History of the Robot, 7.5 Credits

The word ”robot” was coined in 1920 by the Czech writer Karel Capek, and constitutes one of the clearest examples of how literature has influenced science and society broadly. But the idea of the robot, and of the construction of artificial humans, has continuously flowed from the regions of fiction and mythology into that of science and philosophy. Would we today have had scientists and engineers, from Hiroshi Ishiguro to Elon Musk, trying to create functional robots, if it had not been for the milennia-long fantasy about humans creating humans?

This course delves into the long history of the artificial human from the perspectives of cultural history and literature in order to explore the ethical and philosophical foundations of modern AI and robotics. Beginning in the ancient myths of Hephaistos, Pygmalion and Thalos, and continuing with the automaton-builders of early medieval Baghdad and the clockwork mechanisms of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, we arrive at the modern notion of the mechanised human in the industrial revolution, and the crossfertilisation of science fiction and research in the age of Isaac Asimov, Alan Turing and the first truly automotive robots. During the course, we read and discuss works by Edgar Allan Poe, E. T. A. Hoffmann, Mary Shelley, Philip K. Dick, Martha Wells and Becky Chambers in the light of contemporary technological developments.

ECTS Credits

7.5 Credits

Level of education

First cycle, has only upper-secondary level entry requirements (G1N)


School of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences

When is the course offered?

Prerequisites: General entry requirements for university studies.

Selection: Average grade/national university aptitude test/university points

Additional information: Teaching Methods
The course can be made up of lectures, laboratory work, seminars, field studies, exercises, placement studies, web-based discussions and/or workshops.

The course can be assessed through written examination, take-home examination, compulsory course components, paper, essay and/or oral examination.

Course syllabus

Application code: X1608