Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
An android is an artificially created being that resembles a human being. The word derives from Greek Andr- 'man, human' and the suffix -eides used to mean 'of the species, kind, alike' (from eidos 'species').
The word droid, a robot in the Star Wars universe, is derived from this meaning. Some people maintain that, etymologically, the word android means resembling a male human and that a robot resembling a woman should logically be called a gynoid if sexist language is to be avoided; however, this word is not commonly used.
Unlike the terms robot (a mechanical being) and cyborg (a being that is partly organic and partly mechanical), the word android has been used in literature and other media to denote several different kinds of man-made, autonomous creations:
- a robot that closely resembles a human
- a cyborg that closely resembles a human
- an artificially created, yet primarily organic, being that closely resembles a human
Although essentially human morphology is not the ideal form for working robots, the fascination in developing robots that can mimic it can be found historically in the assimilation of two concepts: simulacra - devices that exhibit likeness and automata - devices that have independence.
The term android was first used by the French author Mathias Villiers de l'Isle-Adam (1838-1889) in his work Tomorrow's Eve, featuring a man-made human-like robot named Hadaly. As said by the officer in the story, "In this age of Realien advancement, who knows what goes on in the mind of those responsible for these mechanical dolls."
Although Karel Čapek's robots in R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots) (1921)—the play that introduced the word "robot" to the world—were organic artificial humans, the word robot has come to primarily refer to mechanical humans. The term android can mean either one of these, while a cyborg ("cybernetic organism" or "bionic man") would be a creature that is a combination of organic and mechanical parts.
Historically, science fiction authors have used "android" in a greater diversity of ways than the terms "robot" and "cyborg". In some fiction works, the primary difference between a robot and android is only skin-deep, with androids being made to look almost exactly like humans on the outside, but with internal mechanics exactly the same as that of robots. In other stories, authors have defined android to indicate a wholly organic, yet man-made, creation. Other definitions of android have fallen somewhere in between.
The character Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, is described as an android. In an early episode, Data was found to be intoxicated (The Naked Now), perhaps suggesting that he was intended by the writers to be at least partially organic. In later episodes, Data's insides were shown to be mechanical.
The replicants from the movie Blade Runner were genetically engineered organic beings. While they were not referred to as either robots or androids in the movie, the screenplay was originally based on a short story by Philip K. Dick called Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.
The character Ash in the movie Alien, another man-made organic being, is often referred to as an android (though not in the dialog of the movie itself).
C-3PO and R2-D2 from the Star Wars movies are referred to as droids. While C-3PO could reasonably be called an android because he is humanoid in appearance, the squat cylinder R2-D2 was only humanoid in behavior.
In the movie A.I., the robotic characters are called mechanoids, but the film is loosely based on a short story written by Brian Aldiss called Supertoys Last All Summer Long , in which the central character David is called an android (by which Aldiss seemed to be referring to an organic creation).
Androids in fiction
Isaac Asimov's robot stories are mostly about androids; many are collected in I, Robot (1950). They promulgated a set of rules of ethics for androids and robots (see Three Laws of Robotics) that greatly influenced other writers and thinkers in their treatment of the subject. Most of Asimov's robots appear too artificial to be mistaken for human beings, with the notable exceptions of R. Jander Panell, R. Daneel Olivaw and Andrew Martin.
Many more examples may be found in this list of fictional robots.
- Kerman, Judith B. (1991). Retrofitting Blade Runner: Issues in Ridley Scott's Blade Runner and Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press. ISBN 0879725095
- Shelde, Per (1993). Androids, Humanoids, and Other Science Fiction Monsters: Science and Soul in Science Fiction Films. New York: New York University Press. ISBN 0814779301
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