Are robots taking over? University Professor on rise of Artificial Intelligence

Robotics and Artificial Intelligence are becoming an ever-increasing part of our lives. From the smart speaker in your home, to operating theatres in hospitals, AI technology is also rapidly developing in the cars we drive.

Prof. John Murray, a Professor in Robotics and Autonomous Systems at the University of Hull.
Prof. John Murray, a Professor in Robotics and Autonomous Systems at the University of Hull.

But how should we, as humans, feel about the rise of artificial intelligence? Is it dangerous? Could it pose a threat? Who can forget Sophia, the AI robot which infamously said it would “destroy humans?”

Or should we alternatively see artificial intelligence as a huge economic and technological opportunity?

Prof. John Murray, a Professor in Robotics and Autonomous Systems at the University of Hull, has explored that very subject with pupils across Yorkshire & the Humber.

In a webinar presented by the Yorkshire & Humber Institute of Technology (YHIoT), Prof. Murray discussed with pupils the rise of artificial intelligence, the ethical dilemmas which accompany it, and how “robots” could shape our future.

Professor Murray, the University of Hull lead for the YHIoT, said: “I was delighted to kick off the Institute’s virtual Tech Seminars series.

“Robotics, artificial intelligence, data and agricultural technology are at the heart of the new YHIoT. 

“Demand for expertise in this area is growing all the time. However, the ethical issues involved are often overlooked as people focus on the technology. 

“With rapid technological advances in robotics and AI, it’s important that students are aware of the ethical issues so they are better equipped to design and manage technology that works in harmony with the people it’s built to serve.”

During the webinar, Prof. Murray asked pupils and other viewers whether they considered artificial intelligence technology to be dangerous.

Of those who voted, 38 per cent said yes, 6 per cent said no, with 56 per cent stating they thought AI could be dangerous, but only if in the wrong hands.

Prof. Murray went on to discuss how AI technology is commonly used – from smart speakers and home devices from companies such as Amazon and Google, to improving cancer diagnosis and detection rates in hospitals.

Increasingly, AI technology is also playing a leading role in combating the effects of climate change.

Prof. Murray said Ark – a £15m National Flood Resilience Centre planned for the Humber region, led by the University of Hull and Yorkshire Water – would incorporate AI technology through flood modelling and data interpretation.

The webinar to pupils across the Yorkshire and Humber region was part of a new partnership, the Yorkshire & Humber Institute of Technology.

The YHIoT partnership – one of 12 in the country – aims to nurture highly-skilled employees in areas such as engineering, agri tech and digital technologies. 

It began offering courses at Levels Four and Five, along with a small number of Level Three courses in September 2019. 

The Institute is led by York College and includes the University of Hull, York St John University, Further Education colleges and employers, including ViSR VR, which was established by Hull computer science graduate Louis Deane and is based on the University’s campus.

Amy Gadd, Head of the YHIoT, said: “I was delighted that Professor Murray and the University of Hull could launch the YHIoT virtual Tech Seminars. 

“These sessions are aimed at introducing IoT students and staff to some of the areas of technology that the Institute is focusing on.

“They not only help support learning but we also hope that they spark interest in new subject areas for those attending.”

The robotics and AI webinar was delivered via Zoom to students and staff based across the six FE partner institutions, which included: Askham Bryan College; Bishop Burton College; Craven College; East Riding College; Grimsby Institute; Scarborough Tech and Selby College. 

The session also discussed what is referred to as the “fourth industrial revolution.”

Prof. Murray said the revolution – centred on robotics and cyber technologies – had the potential to create a wealth of new job opportunities, but warned society must also be careful about its application.

In the coming months, future seminars will be held on subjects including 360 Video to Support Learning, Immersive Experiences in Education and Training, Industry 4.0, Cyber Crime and Data Science, Teaching Cybersecurity with a Virtual Environment, Quantum Computing and Managing Pain, and Reducing Trauma, Using Head Mounted Displays.

As one of the anchor higher education partners, the University of Hull will take a leading role in the applied research elements of the IoT. 

It will also support curriculum development, and college teaching staff through short courses and research masters.

Interested in the ethical issues of AI? Watch Professor Murray’s seminar here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1o8kSlRSz0

[Phil Winter – University of Hull]