Robotics, AI Could Augment Human Capabilities, Facilitate Dangerous Work - Prof

© Sputnik / Eugene Odinokov / Go to the mediabankRobot Metrosha in the central office of Moscow Metro in "Prospekt Mira" station
Robot Metrosha in the central office of Moscow Metro in Prospekt Mira station - Sputnik International
It is 2018 and technology is developing faster than ever. Space pioneers such as Tesla CEO Elon Musk are drafting plans to settle humans on Mars, and the field of robotics is broadening its influence in various areas.

But is there such thing as too much technology? And will robots ultimately be a great help to mankind or could they end up enslaving us all, in some form of dystopian Orwellian future? Sputnik spoke with Professor Sethu Vijayakumar, Director of the Centre for Robotics at the University of Edinburgh for more insight on the issue.

Sputnik: What have been the most notable developments in robotics over the past year?

Professor Sethu Vijayakumar: I think the application of taking the robotics research from our labs, to looking at various application domains like warehousing, like autonomous driving cars and really the maturing of the technology, have been the highlights for me.

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There have been a few interesting proof of concept demonstrations across different domains, so transport, oil and gas, acid inspection and in the medical field.

For me; the idea of getting robots to move from factories and laboratories, to real world applications has really been the highlight of the last year.

Sputnik: Will further developments in robotics serve to help mankind, or could they potentially erode the rights of workers?

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Professor Sethu Vijayakumar: I think this has been the rhetoric for several years now in terms of technology. My honest opinion is that robotics and AI in general, can be used to augment human capabilities to make our work-life balance much better, by giving us the ability to do things much more efficiently, with a lot more precision and reliability.

I think of AI and robotics as a way of using additional tools to improve the way we do things, and that’s on one hand. On the other hand; these are enablers for doing things that we were not able to do before, so inaccessible elements like mining under the ocean, on meteors, or doing the kind of surgical interventions in the human body that were previously not feasible and also things like in a nuclear power plant.

At the moment we are kind of postponing the eventual problem of cleaning up and dealing with our nuclear waste in a proper manner, so I think that robotics and AI is enabling us to do this and lots of added capabilities, rather than replacing jobs.

Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of Sethu Vijayakumar and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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