The Science Museum's blockbuster robot exhibitionby / January 19, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in February 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
Science Museum, London, Opens 8th February
In the 16th century, King Phillip II of Spain promised God a miracle in exchange for his son’s recovery from illness. The king duly delivered: he commissioned a renowned clockmaker to build a mechanised monk, with moving parts. The slightly creepy “monkbot” is one of the world’s earliest known robots, the on-trend issue for the Science Museum’s blockbuster exhibition of the year. We have long sought to make machines more humanoid—for me, the irony is that the machines that truly shape the world, such as newsfeed algorithms, are formless and largely invisible.
Institute for Policy Research, University of Bath, 9th February, 5.15pm, registration essential
Of late, Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal and cosmologist, has been preoccupied with the existential threats facing our planet. As well as nuclear technology, he has identified artificial intelligence, geo-engineering and biotech as new fronts in an expanding catalogue of possible sources of catastrophe. Past survival, he argues, provides no assurance that our species will continue indefinitely—but we can maximise our chances by assessing which long-term threats are credible, and adopting precautionary guidelines as we exploit these new technologies.