Anti-robot op-ed from 1932

On the Paleo-Future blog, a 1932 anti-robot op-ed from the Ruston Daily Leader of Ruston, Louisiana. The editorialist predicts an alienation of humans from their creations as the creations start to take on more and more of the work.

We don't shudder over tales of spooks and haunts the way our fathers did, but we can always get cold chills by thinking about a steel monster that goes about with no brain or heart to control it. We find it more horrifying to think of a body without a soul than to think of a soul without a body. Furthermore, we find it easier to believe in such a thing.

And now, apparently, it has happened. Life has imitated art once more. A robot has shot its master.


(Image: Still from Leave It to Roll-Oh (1940) -- from the Prelinger Archive, hosted at the Internet Archive)


  1. It’s a nice little blurb for a daily–probing beliefs and fears with the juxtaposition of soullessness and disembodiment.

    It has a Shakespearian way of speaking pertinently to the present issue from a dated viewpoint.

    The journalist must have been a creative writer too.

  2. A writer in the Deep South writing in 1932, a time of great political unrest. Does no one see the metaphor?

  3. Walking by a guy chipping ice off the sidewalk with a spade, I formulated the following law: “Robots will take over when the total mass of all the machines required to do the various menial jobs we now pay humans to do drops below the mass of the typical menial-job-doing human.”

    So it’s now a race between miniaturization and obesity.

  4. I can hear this being read in the voice of T. Herman Zweibel of the Onion (wheezy, thin, as if coming from a valve radio. Possibly built into a hat).

  5. Yeah, robots in that era were constantly written about (in negatitve fashion) by early sci-fi writers. Some of their stories are classics where their creator is outwitted by their creation (ala Frankenstein – not a robot). But I did find some of these anti-robotic stories and posted them to the web. I’m still looking in my archives for more. If you know of any more, I’d like to hear about them Robot Stories

  6. Hey, Ruston! I grew up near there! Home of (in my opinion) two of Louisiana’s most interesting universities–Louisiana Tech, which focuses a lot on technology and engineering, and Grambling, probably the state’s largest traditionally black college.

    Don’t know if that has any bearing on that, but yeah. It’s not quite the backwoods kind of Louisiana that you see in the Jena 6 case, actually–Ruston is actually kind of upscale.

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