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Of Machines and Men

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Abstract Continuing improvements in computer technology are allowing machines to perform in ways that model human activity, to the extent that many people now treat machines as if they were people. There is a discussion of machine rights, moral machines, and even spiritual machines. Why is this? What is it about humans that causes them to endow mechanical artefacts with personhood? Why, indeed, is there often an assumption that the machines will be malicious and turn on their human creators?

This talk will present some of the technology that allows machines to simulate human behaviour, and identify the clear distinctions that can still be drawn between machines and people.

Biography Peter Robinson is Professor of Computer Technology at the University of Cambridge. He is interested in new technologies to enhance communication between computers and their users, and new applications to exploit these technologies. Early work involved the use of video and paper as part of the user interface leading to augmented reality. More recently he has investigated the inference of people’s mental states from facial expressions, vocal nuances, body posture and gesture, and other physiological signals, and also considered the expression of emotions by robots and cartoon avatars. This has involved considerations of what it means to be human in an age of increasingly human-like machines.

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