Episode 32: A Conversation with Alan Winfield

In this episode, Byron and Alan talk about robot ethics, military robots, emergence, consciousness, and self-awareness.

-
-
0:00
0:00
0:00

Guest

Alan Winfield attended the University of Hull where he received a Bachelor's degree in Electronic Engineering and a Ph.D. in Digital Communications. In 1984, he left academia to found MetaForth Computer Systems (later called APD Communications Ltd), which commercialized their patented high performance computer architecture. He left the company (remaining non-executive director) in 1992 to become Associate Dean (Research) and Hewlett-Packard Professor of Electronic Engineering at the University of West England, Bristol (UWE Bristol), positions he continues to hold to this day. He is also Director of the UWE Science Communication Unit, EPSRC Senior Media Fellow, and Honorary Visiting Professor of the Department of Electronics at the University of York. Co-founding the Intelligent Autonomous Systems Lab (now Bristol Robotics Laboratory) in 1993, Winfield was involved in several robotics projects, including development of the IAS lab Linuxbots. His research interests focus on robotics and robot ethics, artificial intelligence, swarm robotics and intelligence, and mobile robots.

Transcript

Byron Reese: This is Voices in AI, brought to you by Gigaom. I’m Byron Reese. Today our guest is Alan Winfield. Alan Winfield is a professor of robot ethics at the University of West England. He has so many credentials, I don’t even know where to start. He’s a member of the World Economic Forum Council on the Future of Technology, Values and Policy. He’s a member of the Ethics Advisory Board for the Human Brain Project, and a number more. He sits on multiple editorial boards, such as the Journal of Experimental and Theoretical Artificial Intelligence, and he’s the associate editor of Frontiers in Evolutionary Robotics. Welcome to the show, Alan.

Alan Winfield: Hello, Byron, great to be here.

So, I bet you get the same first question every interview you do: What is a robot ethicist?

Well, these days, I do, yes. I think the easiest, simplest way to sum it up is someone who worries about the ethical and societal implications or consequences of robotics and AI. So, I’ve become a kind of professional worrier.

I guess that could go one of three ways. Is it ethics of how we use robots, is it the ethics of how the robots behave, or is it the ethics of… Well, I’ll just go with those two. What do you think more about?