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A Robot Will Appear Before UK Parliament As a Witness For the First Time

Duncan MacRae


Pepper the robot will be questioned by MPs as part of an inquiry into robotics, artificial intelligence (AI) and the fourth industrial revolution.

Representatives from Middlesex University will take a robot to appear as a witness before the UK parliament for the first time next week.

The Commons Education Select Committee is due to hold an evidence session regarding robotics, artificial intelligence (AI) and the fourth industrial revolution on 16th October.

Pepper the robot, a semi-humanoid robot manufactured by SoftBank Robotics, will be one of many witnesses set to be questioned by MPs.

With some industry analysts predicting that jobs will be lost to automation in the near future, an inquiry into the topic is important, according to committee chair Robert Halfon.

He told “If we’ve got the march of the robots, we perhaps need the march of the robots to our select committee to give evidence.”

Halfon admitted that exactly how Pepper would interact with the committee – ie. whether or not it would be pre-programmed to answer specific questions – were still being worked out.

He added: “If you think we are going to be the living version of the Matrix, it is not going to be like that. But I think it will be exciting, interesting and it’s basically showing what the potential is.”

Halfon believes that Pepper’s evidence will be beneficial in helping MPs to better understand their inquiry into AI.

He said: “The fourth industrial revolution is possibly the most important challenge facing our nation over the next 10, 20 to 30 years.

“This is not about someone bringing an electronic toy robot and doing a demonstration. It’s about showing the potential of robotics and artificial intelligence and the impact it has on skills.”

Other witnesses due to give evidence at the inquiry include Brian Holliday, MD at Siemens Digital Factory; Joysy John, director of education at Nesta; and Joana Miranda, robotics student, Middlesex University.

Duncan MacRae


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