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What robots can teach us about humans

Where is the dividing line between man and machines? What makes us wiser than robots? How do you know if a film on internet is real? These are the questions that will be addressed at the Brave New World conference on 8 and 9 November.

During Brave New World, international scientists, business people, authors and artists will take a look into the future. In lectures and   workshops they will consider the social consequences of rapidly emerging technologies, even before they are introduced into society.  The event is intended for professionals in the sciences, industry, government and the creative industry, but also for students who are interested in AI. Two Leiden scientists give us a glimpse of their own lectures: How can be recognise deep fake videos and what can we learn from robots?

Robots can teach us about humans

If you think about future robots, you will probably bring to mind clever robots that will ultimately make us their slaves and take over our jobs. But that's not a real image, according to AI researcher Peter van der Putten from LIACS. ‘Robots can also be emotional, creative, curious, helpless or even religious.' As researchers in the Bots Like You project, he and his colleague Maarten Lamers are interested in these other kinds of robots. 'We philosophise about the different characteristics that make us human, and we look at these traits through robot eyes. We're not so interested in what is happening inside the robot, but what is going on inside humans. That teaches us a lot about humans.' 

Moving away from the cliché

An example of a non-classical robot is Paro, a Japanese robot seal that can give elderly people suffering from dementia a feeling of warmth and safety.  Van der Putten: ‘You normally want to make robots that can do a lot, but Paro is a robot that can do very little. His strength is that he is helpless.' That's why it is so good for elderly people to care for him; it gives them the feeling of being needed.  ‘If we want to know how things are going to change in the future, it's a good idea to move away from the cliché image that we have of robots and take a more philosophical look at what makes us human.' 

Everyone in a deep fake video

Film director, researcher and media designer Jeanine Reutemann will talk about deep fake videos. Reutemann works at the Centre For Innovation, studying the impact of new media technologies and is a lecturer in the interdisciplinary Audiovisual Data in the Digital World. Deep fake technology combines people's bodies, faces and voices to make fake films. 'At the moment, most deep fake videos on internet are of famous politicians and actors. That's because videos made previously are needed to create the fictitious videos,' Reutemann explains. But once this technology has been developed further, it will be possible to make videos of everyone. 'That will have an enormous impact on society,' she predicts. 

Worldwide crisis of trust

There are a lot of negative aspects to deep fake videos, Reutemann explains. They can be used, for example, to change people's opinions about political issues. You can have anyone say whatever you want. 'It's highly likely that deep fake will open up a worldwide crisis of trust in the digital world. How do you know whether data about a particular company is true? Can we still trust audiovisual data? Brave New World will look more closely at these kinds of issues.'

Brave New World and the Leiden International Film Festival

Brave New World will take place on 8 and 9 November in the Stadsgehoorzaal in Leiden. Tickets are available via www.bravenewworld.nl. A ticket to Brave New World also gives you entry to the Leiden International Film Festival (LIFF) on the day or days you are visiting the conference.

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