Francesco Ferro talks robot ethics at Login 2018

Francesco Ferro advocates “The ethical treatment of robots” and talks me through the applications for Pal Robotics Biped Service Robots.

Robotics + AI + Society + Ethics + Service + Technology + Innovation


Francesco Ferro explains how releasing humans from repetitive and dangerous jobs could bring the Fordist work-ethic back to the robot worker assembly line. “Humans are taking robot jobs” is his provocative viewpoint, and I start to understand why as he discusses real world applications for Pal Robotics Biped Service Robots.

FF: We are more and more in a connected world, we have to create connection – and we have to work together in order to solve the real challenges. So now you can see, everybody is speaking about robotics – but where are the robots?

JR: I haven’t spoken to any robots!

FF: This is a big gap, so in research in the University they are doing incredible stuff – but in order to put it into the real world, there is a lot of work to be done.

JR: Do you think more robots will be granted citizenship, like Sophia in Saudi Arabia? How can a robot be equivalent to a human?

FF: I think that was a provocation. There are a lot of things we are facing in the robot world, that is the liability of the robots. What happens when something goes wrong? And we have to be very careful to not cross the line of ethics. Liability at the moment is important, because what happens with all these robots. Because failure, and human failures – we have a lot of responsibility behind. We have to all together find the right way in order to not stop the innovation and creation of these robots in the real world because of this.

JR Do you think the singularity is real?

Do you think the robots will rise up and take over at some point?

FF: Not at all! My point of view is at the moment, the robot is so smart and clever taking into account only the designer that is behind it. From the social point of view there is another interesting thing in robotics. We have to take into account, that the big enemy of the robot is the human. Because we are very aggressive animals, so we used to kill whatever could be a problem in the future. We did it with animals, with nature – but now with the robots we have demonstrated that could be very useful and so thanks to that we are now changing with the collaboration, so we have more and more robots. People are not scared anymore, so they can see the real things that they can do with robots. And this is very important.

JR: So you’re actually advocating for the ethical treatment of robots.

FF: The robot will be another tool that we could make our life better.

JR: What is your vision for the future, and how do we get there?

FF: At the moment, I can say how we can get there, that is just putting a lot of passion, a lot of motivation. There is a huge amount of work that has to be done in order to make this robot better and better everyday. This is how we can do this, with clever idea – it’s not something you can purchase. You can’t go to the supermarket and take a clever idea, it has to be worked on with small teams. The closest future is to have more and more collaborative robots. What I would really love to see is a robot that can help at home – make my bed every morning, cleaning my clothes, and make the washing machine, probably also make some juice for me, and help in the house.

JR: So you’d never be lonely again.

FF: This something we experimented with for real, after a week, people had a lot of trust in the robot.

CEO at PAL Robotics

Francesco Ferro is the CEO and co-founder of PAL Robotics, one of the top service robotics companies around the world, with the mission of making people’s life easier by using robotics. Since 2004, Ferro has been developing state-of-the-art humanoid service robots that are revolutionising domestic tasks and industrial workflows. PAL Robotics develops robots for service tasks and Industry 4.0, as well as for R&D. TALOS is their latest creation, standing out as one of the most advanced and powerful humanoids for industry demands. Ferro is also on the Board Director at euRobotics asibl.


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