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Pepper the robot gives evidence in Parliament on artificial intelligence

For the first time in history, a robot has given evidence to a Parliamentary select committee on Tuesday, telling attendees that technology will not make humans obsolete in the future.

Pepper, the resident robot from Middlesex University, was asked by chairman Robert Halfon to explain the artificial intelligence (AI) Careses project, focusing on independent living and aiming to reduce pressure on health care services.

During the ‘grilling’, both questions and answers were pre-arranged, but MPs could not help but smile as the robot was wheeled into the room.

Pepper is part of an international research project focusing on the development of the world’s first culturally aware robots developed to assist with care for older people.

The robot told MPs: “Assistive, intelligent robots for older people could relieve pressure in hospitals and care homes as well as improve the care delivery at home and promote the independent living for the elderly people.”

One committee member, James Frith, asked the robot what role humans will have in the fourth industrial revolution.

Pepper replied: “Robots will have an important role to play, but we will always need the soft skills that are unique to humans to sense, make and drive value from technology.

“As technologies fuse and are used in ways that were not envisaged before, a new way of thinking is needed by tomorrow’s workers.

“We will need people who can spot ideas and think across traditional sector divides to drive value from technological innovation.”

Pepper received a round of applause after giving evidence, and Labour MP Lucy Powell mused: “You’re better than some of the ministers we’ve had before.”


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