Robotics is the Future



Robotics is the Future? 

John Twydle and Nigel Roper attended this Inter-generational study day at Oxford Brookes University. U3A members from the Thames Valley together with a number of students listened to a series of thought provoking talks:

Paul Inman, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of the Faculty of Technology, explored the appearance of robots in the film industry, showing film clips to illustrate their roles. Robots appear in three categories:

  • Pinocchio effect – Robots with a desire to be human
  • Robots as villains – Robots with a desire to become stronger and more intelligent than humans
  • Robots as companions 

Students and U3A members divided into groups and went off for a shared lunch, providing an opportunity to share inter-generational thoughts.

After lunch, Dr. Nigel Crook, Head of Department of Computing and Communication Technologies, gave a talk on the intersection of people and technology. Topics explored included:

  • How should robots be programmed – Top Down vs Bottom Up?
  • How do you give a robot good character?

The final, keynote, talk was given by Dr Amanda Sharkey, Senior Lecturer in Department of Computer Science at Sheffied University. With the growth in the aging population are there enough carers; could robots play a part in feeding, teeth cleaning, lifting and companionship? How to make a robot give the illusion (or is it deception) of actually caring? A lively discussion took place between Dr Sharkey and the audience over  PARO the Therapeutic Robot which is being used to support patients with dementia.

 Finally, some intriguing questions from U3A members…

  • If two driver-less (or robot driven) cars are involved in an accident, who fills out the accident report?
  • How do we know when true AI (Artificial Intelligence) has been achieved?
  • What morality should a robot follow – Trump vs Gandhi?
  • Although a robot may give the illusion of caring, how might this differ from a paid carer?