The Edinburgh Philosophy and Psychology Group December Meeting (RSVP)

Monday, 28th December 2015 at 8pm - 9:30pm

Location: Southside Social Bar, 42-44 Buccleuch St., EH8 9LP

This event is in the past.

The Edinburgh Philosophy and Psychology Group will be holding its December meeting at the Southside Social Bar (New Venue) - once again with free snacks!

Discussions are non-academic and group members come from a range of ages, backgrounds and nationalities. Non members are welcome and group meetings are FREE.

Attendance is usually around 20-30 members.

The topic for December is:

Robotic workforce: How likely is it that a robot will take your job in the future? Could they do everything? A threat or an opportunity?

OK, so how many of you have seen, or are intending to see, the new Star Wars film. Ever since episode IV hit the screens in 1977, audiences have fallen in love with C3PO and R2D2, our vision of the robots of the future with distinctive personalities and abilities.

But, on a more down to earth basis, we have also seen since then the increasing automation and robotisation of many jobs that would previously have been undertaken by humans. When I first visited the Ford production lines at Halewood in Liverpool in 1975, there were hundreds of workers, each doing their bit in the process. A similar facility now is almost entirely automated.

A similar story could be told in many areas over the last 40 years. Robots are cheaper, more reliable and easier to control than human workforces. The result has been thousands of jobs lost to robot workers.

OK, they are not exactly the vision we have of the Star Wars robots but, nonetheless, robots they are. And they are not just on production lines. At the simple end, think of automated telephone services that direct your calls, predictive text, the way in which Google or Cortana not only answer your questions but anticipate your needs and fill your calendar based on reading your email. Then there are the 'expert systems' that replace doctors, nurses, engineers, lawyers and others with robots that assess information and prescribe solutions. The increasing sophistication of artificial intelligence means that we now rely as much, if not more, on robotic systems to help with our everyday lives as we do on human interaction. Online shopping versus store assistants, planes that fly with minimal interaction from pilots and, perhaps, cars that will drive you rather than you them.

The question must be whether there are any jobs that are not potentially open to some sort of robot replacement or automation that might replace a human worker. Is your job safe? As a psychologist, I used to think that the face to face, human interaction of client and therapist was essential to the process of therapy. However, recent experiments using robot therapists that are capable of reading emotional expression and body language as well as verbal content, and responding appropriately, show they may be more popular than a human therapist in some cases.

Not only can robots replace humans but some people in some circumstances will prefer the automated system. Why is that? Are there limits? Is any job safe? What is the future for human workers if the traditional concept of their jobs disappears?

As usual, so much to discuss.

Meetings - Club/Group Meeting


Displaying 2 comments
Anne wrote
at 4:31pm on Monday, 28th December 2015
Just had some bad news that someone I know who was a lovely person has died suddenly, so I'm quite upset and not feeling like coming out now. Have a good discussion and I hope to make the next one.
Anne wrote
at 2:01pm on Monday, 28th December 2015
Some food for thought relevant perhaps to the discussion tonight. Can we have one ~ Robots taking over jobs ~ without the other ~ a basic income for everyone ~ without a society riven in two with haves and have nots! It seems that even more jobs are vulnerable than most people imagine, what will be left for people to do and how will they do it without the income from a job? Perhaps this is another subject for discussion altogether, but if we're talking about the potential for the traditional concept of jobs disappearing, then perhaps the question of how people survive is integral and inevitable. This is the latest in an increasing number of articles and interest world wide on giving people an income independent of work.

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