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  • Writer's pictureMaram Taian

A Future Alongside Robots

Updated: Jul 15

This insights report is a recap of the TED Circles - Fear of Robots workshop held on Sat August 14, 2021, 10-11:30 am ET. transform this hosted TED Circles are a free, online, safe, and inclusive place to connect with innovators from all over the globe. This workshop included representation from 4 countries including Canada, the USA, India, and Cyprus.

Workshop Goals

TED Circles' June 2021 theme is "Fear of Robots". With the rapidly changing world, robots are now being integrated into our everyday lives, and now we are finding the need to adapt to living with robots. Let’s meet and discuss:

  1. How will the increased adoption of robotics impact our lives?

  2. What transformations are required to ensure a safe and equitable adoption?

  3. What perspectives are needed to transform?


  • Workshop Host: Gunjan Syal – Chief Strategy Advisor, GoEmerald

  • Contributor: Zoha Farooqui – Intern, GoEmerald

  • Contributor: Maram Taian – Product Analyst, transform this

For additional inspiration:

Workshop Insights

With the ever-evolving changes happening around the world, the culmination of science has been steadily increasing to provide us with a greater quality of life. This workshop was an engaging discussion that took place during the pandemic with bright individuals bringing various ideas and perspectives to the table. During this time, we covered topics ranging from letting the robots evolve to what are the implications of the framework of the robot. We also discussed the environmental impact as well as who should be held liable for the problems caused by robots?.

Our workshop has started by reviewing a video from Hod Lipson’s TED talk, where Gunjan points out that being in 2021, we still don’t see many robots around us. While we do not see robots walking down the street or cars flying, we have been slowly adapting to their presence in simple ways.

We are encountering robots in small ways, whether through a simple post on social media to getting an automated response when we are clicking through the pages, bots are all around us. We are at a point where we can observe how robots are now getting more advanced as the level of intelligence keeps increasing. The evolution has undoubtedly come a long way from small steps to large-scale advancements with no means of stopping any time soon.

Priya brings out the discussion with Robotic Process Animation that can be performed in multiple ways. The software perspectives of the robots will contain no code low code technologies for processing quickly, like OCR and receipts.

Gunjan: “Traversing through the most complex use cases has the tendency to make people grow nervous. Should we let machines learn and evolve as children instead of designing them manually?”

The Artificial Intelligence world is based on mechanisms that are built into the software that relies on the acquisition, aggregation, and decision making. The process is similar to what the human brain does by interacting and mimicking with the surrounding environment and solving complex problems. The general intelligence model not just allows us to participate in one model but different smaller subjects. This has provided us with a little perspective in the machine learning and AI world to focus the model’s expertise to do something specific, thereby limiting the use case.

Taking this mechanism to mind and constructing machines that have the ability to learn by themselves and create controlled modules. If such machines are not able to learn on their own, like software and hiring machines, then they cannot be categorized under the AI domain. Performing specific functions, especially in the manufacturing industry, the industrial revolution robots have increased productivity rates and have provided a better quality of life for humans.

What we neglect to consider are the implications when the robots need to perform dangerous and harmful activities. It is important to know if we can use such robots that can cause potential damage to human life.

Nitin: “What will be the governing robotic framework that allows for constant learning and development like a human mind. Humans can be held accountable as a consequence of wrongdoing, but what happens when the robot does something wrong?”

Achieving generalized learning is incredibly hard, it is more complex from a technical point of view. It becomes a vicious cycle if certain use cases have the right to access the robots in certain areas, bringing up wonderment regarding public rights and safety. Humans can distinguish between what is right and wrong, making them highly intelligent. However, this emotional element is absent in robots as it is still inexplicable construct notions of emotions that need to be created. With this, you would see biases creeping in; people would be defining what is right and wrong, a biased perspective on which is the point where the line is drawn, an action that needs to be followed, and people who will be held responsible are challenged.

Priya: “How would you hold the robot responsible, or how would one hold a software company or autonomous organization accountable in the court of law?”

Christos points out that if there is no one to control the actions of robots when they are making decisions, they will have the ability to delete specific items that can cause harm to human beings.

The majority of the population is more open and comfortable with robots helping out occasionally with the chores. People are capable of performing their tasks and hence enjoy doing the work but do not have the capacity to concentrate on more than a few tasks. Bringing a simple bot into one’s life, where it is able to remain consistent with its performance has become an attraction among many.

Nitin: “When we speak about the quality of life, we talk about the fact that despite having 8 million people, nearing a billion on this planet, we feel the need to have a robotic friend.”

The more connected we are through the online network, the more we are lonely, with a growing need to reach out. We aspire to increase the quality of life, and with the robots being able to perform all complex tasks for humans, what have humans really built without the intellectual framework?

We often neglect to address how the time and productivity of the human population will be affected if the robots take away all the small chores along with the industrial work, inherently, taking away jobs from the people.

Gunjan: “How are you going to handle it if the robots have taken over 20-30 years from now?”

Robots' replacement of humans will alter the productivity and resourcefulness of the people, making them more susceptible to mental and physical health issues. The human body demands to perform activities to remain functional. Supporting this statement and taking an accurate example would be, with the rise of the global pandemic, the physical environment has transitioned to a digital workspace that has significantly caused more stress.

Christos points out that although the robots will perform their specific tasks to get the work completed at a faster pace, a human should still be in charge of the actions of the robots, therefore, making it easier to hold the human accountable when operating and programming the robots.

Regulating technology is a concern for many and some people worry that we cannot regulate technology "technology knows no bounds". It cannot be governed where it is not limited to any jurisdiction or any law. It has its own course of nature to follow.

Right now, we are pushing through various types of conversations because even with all the validation there is the need for some sort of consensus around it. There are questions that we do not have the answers to yet; these are very important questions that a looming over us. Overall we need to determine whether robots will help us resolve certain situations that are out of scope or would the robots have a hand in contributing to the mishaps.

As this conversation continues, we touch upon the environmental challenges that we need to consider. The climatic impact has become more significant, with an urgent need to address such challenges with the new generation challenging us to feel the sense of urgency of the impact.

We have also discussed how robots lack the emotional intelligence component that is found in human behavior. Certain jobs require a human’s touch with the need for different perspectives. In the future, we may see more people-oriented jobs focusing on human needs that cannot be administrated and replicated by robots. Robots are built to perform certain functions that are within the program’s framework but giving bots the option to make a decision based on any situation to make corrective actions could result in failure.

Priya: How can you program compassion?

we dive deeper to determine if humans have created a bias towards robots in placing them in higher regard when compared to other humans. While humans are comfortable being around robots, there has to be a human controlling the robot.

Daisy states that not everyone will have the time, financial requirements, or skillset to navigate the transitions that may be a result of the infrastructure and its functions. Employees are being let go without much of a consequence but with a need to replace humans with other humans, however, with the existence of advancement in technology a different scenario gets created.

Daisy: “More jobs can be created in areas that require more people skills, like caring for others. I think, in the future, a lot of the jobs, particularly for personal support work would be hard to automate, but these are also some of the lowest-paying jobs when compared with toughest job quality.”

Rohit points out that it is an established idea for robots to learn and adapt to situations. When a robot is given an objective, it will certainly find its way in a relatively small amount of time to accomplish it when compared to a human. Machines are able to generate hundreds and thousands of results, including the least useful outcome, but they will generate the best and most suitable options. The discussion leads to sidewalks labs that were established earlier and the major repercussion that followed, leading to a withdrawal of the project.

We then touch upon the privacy issues and the control by the big tech companies that are a major concern among many, yet, this is a simple choice that needs to be taken. Rohit draws out the point wherein the efficiency of the robots if proper information has not been communicated with the machines. There is a need to understand if the data being collected is sufficient for one’s own needs to how the data is being collected across certain use cases.

Rohit: Robots would need a certain level of information for them to be effective, thereby preventing conflict if we choose not to share information today.

We look into how there is an increasing amount of jobs related to AI, data, machine learning, and business development. There is a major drive as businesses now have the urge to adopt new technology into the business to remain competitive. With the changing times, there is a need to educate people when delivering what is best for the business to grow.

As the workshop was coming to an end, we reflected upon the valuable insights we have gained from everyone with different perspectives. The advancement of technology may be a challenge but being able to bring together people with different ideologies from across the globe would create a synergic effect and help the human brain evolve its cognitive abilities.

Once again, our gratitude to the global transform this tribe for returning week-after-week and bringing their diverse perspectives for inclusive innovation to flourish. We hope you will join us in taking specific actions as stakeholders to drive inclusive, measurable, and ethical changes aimed at promoting sustainability.

As usual, these conversations continue past the workshop and spill to the social media with our tribe. We are encouraged by this because open discussions such as these bring together multiple global perspectives, bringing us inspiration to find holistic solutions.

Wishing you much health and success until we meet again.


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