The Jon Oberlander Memorial Lecture: Let Robots be Robots

Date(s) - 17/12/2018
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Room G.07, Informatics Forum, University of Edinburgh

To attend this lecture, please register by Monday 10thDecember 2018 (tickets are free, but space is limited) via :  Jon Oberlander Memorial Lecture


Many things that are really hard for us humans, like playing top-level chess, finding complex integrals, or finding trends in huge amounts of data, are quite easy for artificial minds.  Oddly, many things that are quite easy for us, like pouring tea, making a bed, or playing football, are very difficult for robots.  One of the hardest things for robots is to communicate with humans in the same way humans interact with each other.  Many people believe that the long-term goal of robotics should be to make robots that interact the same way humans do (e.g. the Turing Test).  I think that this is not only unreasonably difficult, but also undesirable.  I will discuss an alternative, and in my view more optimal, road map for the development of social robots, and will speculate on some of the consequences that this would have for science and society.


Jan (J.P.) de Ruiter is a cognitive scientist whose primary research focus is on the cognitive foundations of human communication.  After receiving his PhD from Radboud University Nijmegen (The Netherlands), J.P. de Ruiter worked at the Department of Social Psychology at the University of Cologne (Germany), and at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistic in Nijmegen, where he coordinated an institute project on Multimodal Interaction. From 2009 to 2016 he was the Chair for Psycholinguistics at Bielefeld University (Germany).  At present, J.P. de Ruiter is the Bridge Professor in the Cognitive Sciences at Tufts University (Medford, Massachusetts), with a double appointment at the departments of Computer Science and Psychology.

J.P. de Ruiter works on human gesture, conversational turn-taking, multimodal communication, intention recognition, and the cognitive science of misunderstanding.  He has published in linguistic, psycholinguistic, methodological, neurocognitive, and cognitive-psychological journals.  His interests include conversation analysis, philosophy of science, artificial intelligence, and inferential statistics.  He has initiated and/or been involved in several large-scale European and US projects in social robotics, focusing on collaborative interaction between humans and artificial systems.

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