The Power of Robot Memes

July 28, 2023
Feiyu Su

Have you ever chuckled at a meme of a robot trying, and failing, to prove its non-robotness to a relentless CAPTCHA test? This humorous scenario is a typical example of a robot meme, a genre of Internet humor that has quickly become a favorite in our digital culture. But why do people find robot memes so appealing? Let’s take a light-hearted journey into their rise and enduring popularity.

A computer screen reads, "Prove you're not a robot," followed by a CAPTCHA test. The robot sitting at the computer is thinking, "OMG, that is so offensive!"

The concept of “memes” was first introduced by Richard Dawkins in 1976, defined as small units of culture that spread by copying or imitation (Shifman, 2014, pp.2). Fast-forward to the digital age, and memes have evolved into shared cultural artifacts that permeate the Internet, often marked by their humor and surprising insight (Shifman, 2014, pp.18). Among the diverse plethora of Internet memes, robot memes have carved out their unique niche, providing endless entertainment and food for thought about our relationship with technology.

A two-panel robot meme. The first panel is labelled "Really?" and the second is labelled "Damn."

But what exactly makes robot memes persist in the minds of people? According to Shifman, the author of “Memes in Digital Culture,” popular memes share six common characteristics: (1) positive and humorous, (2) provoking “high arousal” emotions, (3) clear and simple, (4) featuring famous characters, (5) approaching the right audience, and (6) interactive (2014, pp. 66-72). Robot memes definitely hit the mark.

“Silly” Famous Robot Characters

Robot memes often depict familiar robotic figures like Wall-E or Bender in relatable human situation or portray fictitious robots comically misunderstanding or misinterpreting human behavior. These scenarios are familiar yet absurd, and therein lies the charm. Here are some funny robot memes featuring those beloved characters:

A two-panel Futurama meme featuring the robot character Bender. In the first panel, he says "I'd better use my special robot vision to see what's inside." In the second panel, Bender's eye have extended out of his head and into the package he's holding.
Bender is crying. The text says, "I mean, being a robot's great, but we don't have emotions, and sometimes that makes me sad."
A meme of the robot WALL-E labelled, "Sad robot agrees."


Another critical aspect of the popularity of robot memes is their humorous nature. By placing robots, usually perceived as emotionless, logical entities, in comical or even farcical human situations, a rich vein of humor is struck. Whether it’s a robot fretting over a CAPTCHA test or misunderstanding a common human expression, the humor springs from the delightful incongruity of these situations.

A two-panel robot meme. In the first panel, a robot is holding a burger. The label says, "Google robot eat." In the second panel, the robot smushes the burger against its head. The label reads, "Was not disappointed."
A Eric Andre Show meme. Eric Andre is at a gate, screaming "Let me in!" Eric Andre is labelled "robots" and the gate is labelled with a reCAPTCHA test that is simply a checkbox that says "I'm not a robot."

Simple, Clear, and…Relatable

The jokes or punchlines embedded within many robot memes are often presented in a straightforward, easily understandable manner. This simplicity and clarity make the memes accessible to a wide audience, regardless of their tech-savviness. Furthermore, the themes they often depict, such as dealing with everyday tech hiccups or the fear of technology taking over, are universally relatable. By reflecting these common experiences and fears through a humorous lens, robot memes connect with people on a personal level, further fueling their popularity and shareability.

A four-panel cartoon featuring a scientist and a robot. The scientist says, "Finally! I have made an entirely self-aware robot! Speak RX-1!" The robot says, "The Earth is flat." The scientist, looking defensive, says to the reader, "It's not done yet."
A robot is seated in an office cubical as its coworker passes by. The robot asks the coworker, "Hey man...Would you tick this 'I am not a robot' box for me?"


As digital artifacts, the robot meme is not just a static image to be passively consumed. Robot memes often invite active engagement. Whether it’s by sharing, commenting, remixing, or even creating a new meme in response, users are encouraged to participate in meme culture. This interactivity amplifies the reach and influence of robot memes, transforming them from a simple joke into a shared cultural experience that fosters connection and community.

A three-panel meme. Will Smith asks "Can a robot be funny? Can a robot come up with clever comebacks?" A robot replies, "Can you?" Will Smith looks shocked.
A three-panel meme. Will Smith asks “If AI is so smart, why can’t you make funny memes?” A robot replies, “Why can’t you?" Will Smith looks shocked.
A three-panel meme. Will Smith says, “You can’t even write code without stealing someone else’s.” A robot labelled “ChatGPT” replies, "Can you?" Will Smith, now labelled “Developers,” looks speechless.

Delving deeper, robot memes offer more than just humor. By presenting robots in hilarious ways, these memes open a window for us to explore our hopes, anxieties, and thoughts about AI. They invite us to laugh at the idea of robots taking over the world, making these somewhat daunting topics more approachable and less intimidating.

In conclusion, the enduring appeal of robot memes lies in their successful blend of humor, cultural commentary, and communal connection. They make us laugh and ponder while fostering a broader discussion about the role and future of AI in society. As our fascination and engagement with technology continues to grow, robot memes are likely to remain an integral, and hilariously entertaining, part of our digital cultural landscape. Robotics in general can be a huge source of comedy. If you're interested in infusing comedy into your robotics company, reach out below.

A meme that says "Me: fails captcha 4 times", followed by "Me" and a still of Arnold Schwarzenegger's character in The Terminator looking at his robotic hand.


Shifman, L. (2014). Memes in Digital Culture. MIT Press.