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Botworld: Designing for the new world of domestic A.I.

An evening lecture at the Royal Institution, covering the domestication of robots and artificial intelligence.

PRESENTATION Botworld, slide 1 (slides and text)


Back in the 1960s, we thought the 21st century was going to be about talking robots, and artificial intelligences we could chat with and play chess with like people. It didn’t happen, and we thought the artificial intelligence dream was dead.

But somehow, a different kind of future snuck up on us. One of robot vacuum cleaners, virtual pets that chat amongst themselves, and web search engines so clever that we might-as-well call them intelligent. So we got our robots, and the world is full of them. Not with human intelligence, but with something simpler and different. And not as colleagues, but as pets and toys.

Matt looks at life in this Botworld. We’ll encounter a zoo of beasts: telepresence robots, big maths, mirror worlds, and fractional A.I. We’ll look at signals from the future, and try to figure out where it’s going.

We’ll look at questions like: what does it mean to relate emotionally to a silicon thing that pretends to be alive? How do we deal with this shift from ‘Meccano’ to ‘The Sims’? And what are the consequences, when it’s not just our toys and gadgets that have fractional intelligence… but every product and website?

Matt digs into history and sci-fi to find lessons on how to think about and recognise Botworld, how to design for it, and how to live in it.

—from the Royal Institution summary.

March 28, 2012

Botworld is a talk on domestic artificial intelligence, from February 2011.