Keynote presentation

Robotics Quo Vadis?

Prof Sabine Köszegi, 

TU Wien, Austria

Recent scientific advances in robotics and AI systems fuel the hope that autonomous, intelligent machines will free humans from tedious and exhausting routine tasks, leaving plenty of room for creative – and for humans – meaningful tasks. What’s more, with the help of intelligent machines, we make better decisions and solve significant challenges such as climate and care crises. According to this narrative, AI augments people’s capabilities without replacing them altogether. But there is another narrative. One in which the use of intelligent machines in the context of work leads to a change in the role and identity of humans. Not only does the use of robotics and AI lead to diminished self-efficacy and autonomy, but over time, people lose essential skills and confidence in their competencies and thus become dependent on these technologies. In this narrative, robots and AI replace unreliable, error-prone humans in the work process. Which of these narratives becomes reality will ultimately determine the design of these technologies. Current empirical evidence suggests that the full potential of robotics and AI in the work context can only be realised if humans and machines are understood as a socio-technical ensemble and the design of machines adapts to the needs of humans and not vice versa.