Her great dread is that she will no longer be able to connect with audiences through dancing, but people gasp in wonder at her grace and power, far beyond what the old Deirdre or any human could achieve. Her manager “had feared once to find her jointed like a mechanical robot”; but as the cyborg dances, “it was humanity that seemed, by contrast, jointed and mechanical.”
Nevertheless, despite Deirdre’s return to an expressive life, there are signs that her transformation will end badly. Maltzer’s great aim was to develop cyborgian technology to end suffering caused by inju- ries like Deirdre’s; a cyborg like her,says Deirdre,“was Maltzer’s gift to the whole [human] race.” But Maltzer feels enormous guilt at the thought that he has locked Deirdre into a cage that will destroy her spirit as it separates her from humanity, and he attempts suicide.The story ends with an ominous hint that for Deirdre, this isolation has already begun. Even so, Deirdre represents the aesthetic and physical best that could be achieved by going beyond nature to the artificial, a new kind of beauty.
Other imaginary creatures that bring something good to human- ity appeared in the 1930s and 1940s. Perhaps they represented faith that humanity’s reach could exceed its grasp; equally, they might have represented fear of robot hostility—if not fear of them actually attack- ing people, as in R.U.R., then symbolically, by replacing humans in the workplace.The belief in helpful robots might have been no more than a fond hope that humanity could, after all, keep them under control.
The new breed of robot appeared just before World War II and into the 1950s and 1960s, when technology, partly inspired by the needs of the military, was reaching levels where robots could be seri- ously contemplated. For the 1939 New York World’s Fair, the Westinghouse Company—then a leading technology-based corpora- tion—created Elektro, a robot whose metal body worked by electric- ity. Capable of far more than any earlier robot, Elektro was a hit of the fair, where it was presented as helpful, friendly, and amusing.