BBC World Service

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Technological and digital news from around the world.


In the Realm of Robots

March 15th, 2016

Episode 79 of 152 episodes

Like all change, Artificial Intelligence brings with it dangers and opportunities. But does the increasing capacity of computers to approximate human thinking mark a possibly catastrophic change too far? Stephen Hawking is very worried. He has said that Artificial Intelligence could spell the end of the human race. It may sound far off and fanciful, but before we reach that terminal point might AI more immediately herald the end of work, and even social care? In the work of translation, for instance, the benefits of machine learning in computers are myriad (Microsoft claims its computer translating programmes for a particular language ‘learn’ from the previous experience of translating another language); but this advance also signals a future disruption to the livelihoods of professional translators. And in the world of care work, therapeutic robots such as PARO suggest that interactions that seemed beyond the realm of robots and computers are now within their reach; its champions point out that robots, unlike humans, will never suffer compassion fatigue - or will they? In collaboration with the Cambridge Science Festival, Click’s Gareth Mitchell and Bill Thompson bring together a panel of experts including Professor Barbara Sahakian, the entrepreneur Azeem Azhar and the Astronomer Royal, Professor Martin Rees to discuss the risks and benefits of AI: if we are not yet in the realm of robots, are we dangerously in their thrall? (Photo caption: Music playing robots play trumpets, a tuba and a trombone Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images) Producer: Colin Grant

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