Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1147
The Rossum Universal Robot Factory perfects the production of mechanical men and women. The formula was developed originally by old Rossum, but it was left to his son, an engineer, to manufacture the robots. Robots know no joy, no desire to take a solitary walk, no personal wish of any kind. They are highly developed, with mechanisms devised for only one purpose: work.
The robots manufactured by Rossum’s Universal Robot Factory are so lifelike, however, that when the president’s daughter, Helena Glory, calls at the factory and is shown around by Harry Domin, general manager, she can hardly believe that the robots are not human. Helena was sent by the Humanity League on a mission to gain better living conditions for the robots. Helena knows that when the robots begin to act strangely, as they sometimes do, they are destroyed and their parts are used to make new robots. She is dismayed to find that the robots she meets and talks with in the factory do not care whether they are killed or are starved. They think of nothing but their work. They talk rationally, answering her questions, but they seem to have no desires or feelings beyond their given jobs. Domin and the other executives are willing to have her preach to the robots all she wishes.
In the warehouses are hundreds of thousands of robots waiting to be shipped all over the world. Domin tries to convince Helena of the rightness of the new era. Now, humanity is no longer effective. People are too imperfect, too expensive, too immature. Although Domin cannot agree that robots should be freed and allowed human rights, he admits that sometimes they act oddly. Often one would gnash its teeth, throw things about, and then stand still. The attack is similar to epilepsy, and the robot has to go to the stamping-mill to be destroyed. Helena believes these are signs of developing a soul. The managers are working on a pain-nerve. They think that if the robots were to feel pain, these attacks could be foreseen and treated.
The executives try also to convince Helena of the virtue of robots by pointing out to her that the prices of all manufactured and farm goods drop almost to nothing. Where Helena can see only the millions of humans out of work, the managers can see a world in which no human being has to work. People can then sit back and enjoy the labors of mechanical workers. Only Mr. Alquist, head of the works department, disagrees with that notion. Alquist can see the joy that people find only in working and creating. The others quickly vote him down.
Without prior warning, Domin tells Helena that he loves her and cannot bear to lose her. Puzzling even herself, she accepts him. Ten years pass. The managers try to keep from Helena the news that the robots are causing trouble. All over the world small groups of robots revolt against their masters. Some governments turn the robots into soldiers and terrible wars are fought. Learning of these revolts, she begs Domin and the others to close the factory while there is still time. The men laugh at her fears. They have a gunboat standing by that will protect them from any rebels in the warehouses. Only Alquist agrees with Helena. He even prays that God will destroy the robots and let humanity return to work. He knows, as Helena does, that people stopped reproducing; there were no births recorded in the past week.
Dr. Gall, the physiologist, begins to fear the results when he learns that some of the more intelligent robots, according to their different grades, begin to feel pain and to have heart flutters. They also begin to show definite signs of hating and of loving. The R.U.R. shareholders, however, are making too much money, and world governments are growing too powerful with robot soldiers to permit their discontinuation, even if Domin and the others accepted Helena and Alquist’s views....
(The entire section contains 1147 words.)
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