Alan Winfield on robot ethics

Alan Winfield, who glories in the title of “Professor of Robot Ethics,” at the University of the West of England was a recent subject of  Jim Al-Khalili’s Radio 4 series  “The Life Scientific.” ,   [21Feb17],     At one point in the interview he expresses concern that the development  of robots will lead  ultimately  to a society unable to provide meaningful work for it’s citizens.  Whilst it is quite clear that he is an advocate of  robots and indeed has interesting things to say about their potential capabilities and limitations, he nevertheless is able to speak sympathetically about those who resisted new technology in a former era: “Luddites were not opposed to technology” he says; “They were opposed to hunger.”

Winfield’s concerns add strength to the arguments of those such as Paul Mason [Post Capitalism: A Guide to our Future]  who see this direction of travel as the challenge to which free market capitalism has no answers.  A central idea in Mason’s post capitalist guide is basic income and this naturally makes experiments in this radical policy of great interest.  For this reason I am thankful to Angus Hardie, Director of the Scottish Community Alliance, for reminding me of the Finish Experiment and drawing my attention to a potential pilot right here in Scotland.

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