World Economic Forum appointment for UWE Bristol robotics professor

Issue date: 24 November 2016

Professor Alan Winfield

A professor at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) has been appointed a member of a prestigious World Economic Forum (WEF) council.

Alan Winfield, Professor of Robot Ethics in the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, has joined the Global Futures Council on the Future of Technology, Values and Policy.

One of 35 WEF Global Futures councils, it will focus on how values that represent the global public interest can be embedded in technological systems and how agile governance mechanisms can be constituted and implemented to address the regulatory issues surrounding emerging technologies.

Professor Winfield will serve on the council alongside researchers from Harvard, Yale and the Weizmann Institute of Science.

The appointment follows Professor Winfield's appearance at the WEF's Annual Meeting in Davos in January, when he spoke about robot ethics as one of the invited scientists.

He said: “There are two reasons I'm so pleased to be involved in this. First, the amazing group of people I will be working with and, second, because I passionately believe technology should benefit all.

“We hear a lot about 'disruptive' technologies, but we need to take great care (and pressure policymakers accordingly), that such disruptions (to livelihoods, markets or the environment) respect and embed the best of human values.

“I'm still learning what participation in the council will involve, but we had the first telephone meeting recently. Since this is a new council we're still figuring where and how to focus our attention.”

Professor Winfield co-founded the Bristol Robotics Laboratory and his research is focussed on understanding the nature and limits of robot intelligence. He is a strong advocate for robot ethics. He was a member of the team that drafted British Standard BS 8611 Guide to the ethical design and application of robots and robotic systems, published in April 2016, and he currently co-chairs the general principles committee for the IEEE Global Initiative for Ethical Considerations in the Design of Autonomous Systems. Until recently he was Director of the Science Communication Unit at UWE Bristol.

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