What's it about?
Universal Robots follows an alternate history where robots were invented in the past, and have now become almost indistinguishable from humans.
What'd I experience?
I'm going to be completely honest, the main reason went to see this show was purely based on the name. I didn't even look into it at all and barely even checked where it was playing before I decided on it. I just saw the words "Universal Robots" and figured "damn that is one of the coolest combinations of words I have ever heard and if I don't see this I will be sorry." That's it. Not really that much going on in my head.
Nevertheless, I held on to my obliviousness and went in blind. I figured if I put that little thought into actually choosing the show I might as well remain oblivious with my only thought being "oh boy robots." I was kind of disappointed though when I got there and saw that there were no actual robots in the show, at least not the kind I was expecting. The robots in the show were vastly superior robots, ones that were almost identical to humans in look, thought, and even emotion in some cases, so it made sense that they would be portrayed by... people. It would have been kind of dumb saying "these are the most advanced robots ever created" and then have one of those old cheap sci-fi movie robots that looks like tin foil came out. I probably wouldn't have been able to keep a straight face throughout the show if they had done that. But I did secretly hope throughout the show that one was just going to walk out on stage for a bit because let's face it, those things are pretty cool.
As the show progressed (and I got over my initial disappointment of no cheesy robots) it touched on a topic that I see a lot in sci-fi stuff but is always a very thought provoking topic for me: robot rights. Yeah it sounds a little dumb now, but think a bit down the line. Let's say we develop complex robots that can move and think on their own, not necessarily looking like humans like they do in the show, but are even just similar enough to us in structure and functionality. Now obviously we aren't going to just say "oh look we made a bunch of realistic robots let's let them be a part of society normally." We are gong to use them for work - like manufacturing, assembly, all the hard jobs we don't want to do, probably even have them making more of themselves too.
That's exactly what this show did, created the robots, gave them their own simulated consciousness, but made their sole purpose to work non-stop. They even gave them eating and sleep functionality, but they were hard wired to care about work over all of that. Now there in lies the ethical dilemma of "is this all okay to do?" Yes you are creating these things for the purpose of being tools essentially, but if you are embedding them with a mind and consciousness and emotion then that makes them kind of human, in a way. It would be one thing if the robots were created and then were able to decide if they would like to work and where they would like to work or even if they want to be created. But to force life onto something and immediately have them do nothing but work and think about nothing but work, that's kind of like a weird futuristic slavery. I honestly don't know the answer to the dilemma, my heart tells me that it's messed up but at the same time they are just manufactured so it's kind of a weird concept. This kind of stuff keeps me up at night.
The rest of the show continued to play out and I wasn't really feeling it. It was nothing I hadn't really seen before, it was something I had seen countless times in other sci-fi stuff. It continued to play with the robot or human idea and it ended a little drastically and unexpected, and by that I mean that the robots eventually got fed up with us and decided to just kill us all off. It's completely understandable, I mean, I would be a bit mad too if my whole species was created to work until we die.
This did leave me very curious though, because apparently this was a world famous play. So after I left the show I immediately looked up what it was all about, and I was very surprised at what I found. Here I was thinking I was watching some same old tribute to all the other sci-fi robot epics, meanwhile this play was written all the way back in 1921. It was the inspiration of all of my favorite movies that dealt with this topic, and there I was just kind of dismissing it as a replica. It even created the word robot - like how awesome is that? It was so far ahead of it's time that it blended right in with all the stuff that I was used to seeing now. In retrospect I'm a little mad at myself for not looking anything up about it, I would've appreciated what I was watching way more.