“Android Philosophy” Lecture at Beirut Arab University

27 October 2017

The Faculty of Science at Beirut Arab University in collaboration with the Embassy of Japan in Lebanon, organized a lecture entitled “Android Philosophy” delivered by the distinguished Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro, the Director of the Intelligent Robotics Laboratory at the Graduate School of Engineering Science at Osaka University- Japan.
The Lecture was attended by President of Beirut Arab University Prof. Amr Galal El- Adawi, Secretary General Dr. Omar Houri, Cultural Attaché at the Japanese Embassy Mr. Nishikawa, Economic Attaché at the Japanese Embassy Mr. Wada, Members of the Japanese Embassy, BAU Deans, Faculty and Staff Members and a crowd of interested audience and students from the Faculty.
 The event was introduced by Dr. Walid Malaeb Assistant Professor of Physics at the Faculty of Science. Prof. Ishiguro lectured elaborating that “The topic of robotics holding human emotions is still controversial on many levels. Yet, Hiroshi Ishiguro, one of the very few “Humanoids Gods” in the world, insists that this is not just a dream, but rather a beautiful reality”. He aimed at stimulating human emotions and intimacy in humanoids he creates.
It is hard to understand what humanoids really mean to Ishiguro, knowing that he made a humanoid that looks like his daughter in 2002, and unveiled it to the public in 2005. His passion toward robotics made him have an artist pour thick paint all over his daughter’s body, to make a silicone skin for her “humanoid” when she was still a small kid. He named the robot Repliee R1—R for Risa. The professor’s robotics have been known to stand out for their human-like features; and he even has a team to analyze and work on cognitive science and psychology to be placed into his humanoids.
Many publications have described his work to be "the engineering of human intimacy," and he responds to that by insisting that intimacy should not only be used to describe sexual behavior.
For him, it is an aspiration to get to a level where a robot can understand human beings’ deeper intentions and desires. Intimacy in robots also signifies their human-friendly feature; a thing Ishiguro is great in presenting through his humanoids.
Many people might respond more to robotics if they were more human-like, but at the same time, the “toy-like robots have a huge fan base too, mainly constituting of children,” Ishiguro indicates. Just as people need to study humans’ whole bodies, the inventor believes that robots’ bodies should be studied as well, since “they have their own sensors and experiences too.”
Ishiguro’s ultimate purpose is to stimulate human emotions in a robot. In order to do so, he is using a bottom-up approach which relies on investigations related to neuroscience, and a top-bottom approach, which is creating human-like robots by using technologies.
Ishiguro is receiving $16 million, which is one of the biggest grants from the Japanese government in science and engineering. Speaking of the robotics market, there are cheaper robots being created by China, Ishiguro says. Yet, the most demanded types are the industrial robots, and 70% of them are made in Japan.
There is not yet an international market for interactive robots, but many companies in Japan are currently using Ishiguro’s robots. That is why Ishiguro does not see U.S’s Amazon experience as a robot, because for him, robots should interact and have conversations with us.
An example of his interactive robots can be found in some restaurant companies in Japan. The controversy of robots being good or bad to humanity is simplified with Ishiguro’s words and actions. They are a good thing in Japan since there aren’t enough young people, so “this won’t affect unemployment rates.” Interestingly, humanoids have the ability to make many humans feel better, especially the elderly and children with autism, Ishiguro’s case studies reveal. One of the most renowned autism hospitals in Japan is using his humanoids for this purpose.
“Autistic children don't talk to people but to robots,” he says, adding that “robots might reach a stage where they share desires and emotions with humans.”
At the end of the Lecture, Prof. Ishiguro explained which robots comply with Lebanon who was visiting the country for the first time for 3 days only, the Syrian refugee crisis in Lebanon seems to have a large impact on everyone. “Perhaps Lebanon can use robots for military to secure its borders,” he said. BAU shield of Appreciation was presented to him as an appreciation to his great achievements. 


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