Monday 27 November 2017


An article in a medical journal suggested that robots will not only provide caring for patients (even made to look ‘cute’ like a child) and 24-hour supervision and ‘friendship’ for the elderly, the disabled, and babies, but that in future many medical consultations will take place using smartphones, home sensors and AI systems with access to NHS-wide data. The robots would then ‘partner’ with humans who would only need to become involved where the systems fail to solve a problem.  What will be our attitude to such simulation of human activities?  Does it matter if ‘compassion’ or ‘friendship’ is a product of clever programming?

Human robots?

In modern distribution centres, the work of real humans is already guided by robots who give detailed instructions to them to go to a certain row and aisle and lift such and such an item off a certain shelf, etc etc.  Are the people doing those jobs still working as humans or is their work so robotic that it would be better if they weren’t involved? And is there more dignified work they could or should be doing?  Where will the jobs of the future be?

Driverless (and shared?) cars

As a member of a House of Lords Select Committee, the Bishop of Oxford realised recently that his young grandchildren may never have the experience that we do of car ownership or even a driving test.  How do we feel about that, with our habitual British interest in individualism and staying in control? The Bishop's 8 challenging 'Key Issues' to be faced by all of us can be read here

From technology to ethics to politics

Matthew Taylor of the RSA and author of the Taylor Review on modern working and employment practices commented in an economics discussion in Bristol last week that it is high time this subject was politicised. We cannot just sit back and leave it to 'technological' forces - which in effect means free market forces.  We must ensure that technology develops the way we want it to and the political choices will require us to know the facts as well as face them. 

On Sunday, December 10th, at Wychwood Library, we will watch a video of an erudite and engagingly delivered talk by the author of the medical journal article referred to above, Professor John Wyatt of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion at Cambridge University. Ian Cave has kindly agreed to facilitate the viewing and the ensuing discussion which is likely to be fascinating and far-reaching - and of ever-increasing relevance to all our lives.  Do join us at 7pm (ends 9pm).  

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