On Friday 22nd October 2021, MHREC hosted a discussion on Robotics, where 5 participants were respondents on an interactive platform on the role of Artificial Intelligence in society. The participants came from different backgrounds including scientific, engineering, humanities and social science backgrounds. This created a space for a diversely charged and interesting discussion with different viewpoints, ideas and prospects for the future.
The discussion kicked off with a question on what A.I. means to different people, and what attributes are connected to it. The participants delved into the physical human attributes of robots, and the difference between software and mechanical A.I. On the one hand, the future with A.I. seemed exciting and on the other hand, it was also deemed as somewhat unfamiliar and can create a feeling of not being in control. The influence of Hollywood movies and post-apocalyptic depictions within the entertainment business has created fear amongst the audience, and participants noted that what stands out the most is the fact that there can be a time in the future where ‘Robots’ or A.I in general can, not only become more human like with human attributes, but that they can easily take over the world.
The discussion then moved on to the use of A.I. in society, on the different functions already in existence along with new innovative ideas that can be useful. The different uses mentioned included robot surgery, traffic patrol, reporting, tourist information centre, war-defence and attack, delivery of various items in remote areas, road cleaning, house cleaners, construction, postal delivery, cooking, transport, companionship, entertainment, childcare, teaching as well as religious officiants. With these different ways in which A.I. can assist/ affect society at large, the discussion moved on the influence and ramifications of A.I. These included the idea that humans can become lazy, having A.I. do all the work can lead to various skills especially manual labour and technical skills to become obsolete. This would lead to an increase in poverty, unemployment rates and a wider gap in education within society as A.I. becomes less accessible to everyone and the availability of technological tools becomes limited to those who can afford them. This would also lead to an increase in consumerism, and more things would need to be purchased rather than done manually. It can also lead to a more fast-paced world and a reduction in social interaction. On the other hand, having A.I. do the work faster and more efficiently could lead to people having more time at hand; other positive impacts could also include more family life and more space for creativity.
The discussion then turned into a creative session where the participants brainstormed as a team to create a form of A.I. of their own. They decided on an artificially intelligent amulet used for protection. This amulet which is worn around the neck as a necklace can be voice activated and it can act as a shield to protect people from sexual harassment and assault in the streets. This amulet has the ability to connect the person to the police if the emergency arises, and it also has sensors in order to analyse data around the area in order to detect stalking/predatory moves. It was discussed that even though the amulet could be problematic for the protection of the right to privacy for the general public in the streets, very much like CCTV cameras, the right to be safe and the right to life outweighed the right to privacy.
MHREC is pleased to have hosted this very successful and fun event, giving the participants and the members of the organization the opportunity to think about the future and the rights and duties that emanate from the use of technology within society. We thank Across Limits for selecting us as a host for such an interesting opportunity!