Humanising the Robot Society – Ben Russell, Science Museum


[MUSIC PLAYING] We seem to be every a bit of
a crisis of self-definition as humans. What are we when so many pieces
of scientific and technological research seem to be undermining
those things which we always thought made us uniquely human? And in a way, that presents
robots or something of a portmanteau
word, not robots in a strictly modern
sense of the word. But in a way, this is
really an exhibition which is about the
anthropomorphism of machines. How do we relate to them? What is our interaction
with those things? Most people tend to be very
aware of the production line type robots, this sort of stuff. And most people without even
realising it are actually starting to come to terms with
the self-service checkouts, 470,000 in Western Europe
and in North America. I always thought it
was a bit of a shame that the battle cry of the
forthcoming robot revolution won’t be, “I’ll be
back” or, “exterminate.” It’ll be unidentified
objects in the bagging area. The human form has
been a central subject of portraiture and
art and sculpture. Actually, it’s been a central
subject of mechanism as well. So a very high speed
look through some of you objects we might have. This is my typical
curator thing. I’m showing you lots
of pictures of stuff. You must start off with
the clockwork universe, the idea of the human
body as a machine, an [INAUDIBLE] of
perpetual motion. You might charge through some
of the origins of the human form as mechanism, when things
were clockwork to armour, all that sort of stuff. You could come a
little bit further on to imagine, actually,
many of the ideas at first were about how the human body
works are expressed in terms of machines, which
were coming on stream during the 18th century. Just to recap then, in
all of the discussions we’ve heard this
evening, I think that there’s a fair
deal of ambivalence. But perhaps in taking
that long look, we want perhaps think
that nothing’s changed. It’s always been the same. And we’ve always
had a great deal of hot contest over actually
what comprises our humanity and also our
relationship with robots. Thank you. [APPLAUSE]

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