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Robot technology and the questions we should be asking

Confused about the ethics of smart technology? Want to know more about the possible impact of such systems on your work, your wellbeing, your autonomy?   

An invitation for people to voice their ethical and social concerns about the future of robot technology - from driverless cars to military drones -  is being issued by the organisers of a conference at the University of Sussex.

The event, ‘Robots and You’, is part of the programme of the European Network for the Advancement of Artificial Cognitive Systems, Interaction and Robotics (EUCog), conference, which takes place at the University’s Falmer campus on October 23 and 24.

Members of the public are being encouraged to submit their questions and comments via the web (, twitter (#robotsandyou) or to send videos and audio files to A selection will then be discussed by a panel consisting of leading academics in the field and those involved in the development of cognitive technology, with representatives from industry, the military, healthcare and the media.

Co-organiser Dr Ron Chrisley, Director of the Centre for Research in Cognitive Science at the University of Sussex and a member of the Sussex Neuroscience group, says: “Smart technology is advancing at such a rapid rate that we’ll be seeing systems taking over and making decisions that we may not agree with. It opens up all kinds of questions about whether machines can ever be taught right from wrong – or who’s to blame when things go bad.”

“For the first time since we started our European network of researchers, we’re offering the public the opportunity to have some of their ethical and social concerns discussed by those at the forefront of this technology.”

Outcomes of the discussions will also be posted on the ‘Robots and You’ website.

Other events at the conference include presentations and discussions on ‘privacy and security’, ‘military systems’ and ‘health and assisted living’.

Dr Chrisley says: “Cognitive systems research has a growing impact on society that will soon be very substantial in several areas, such as the workplace, environment, transport, the employment economy, even our conception of ourselves and what it is to be human.

“However, there are different perceptions about what these effects might be, and whether they will be beneficial, or a menace. This members’ meeting will provide a forum for European cognitive systems researchers to discuss the potential social implications of their work in the light of the views and concerns of the public."

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By: Jacqui Bealing
Last updated: Friday, 11 October 2013