Thanks to scientific breakthrough, almost all labor on earth is done by cheap, efficient robots made by the Rossum's Universal Robot company. When a young idealist, seeking to liberate the robots, visits the factory to incite a revolt, she is greeted by the eccentric managers who assure her that robots are, indeed, soulless. However, this is called into question when some of the more advanced robots become displeased with their subjugated status and hatch a plan to destroy their human creators. When all is said and done, the lone survivor is left to ponder his own humanity and the wisdom of playing god.
Written in 1920, R.U.R. was the first literary work to use the word 'robot' to describe artificial people.