First International Symposium on
30th - 31st January 2004, Villa Nobel, Sanremo, Italy

Machines and Robots: a Questionable Invasion in Regard to Humankind Development.

Philippe Coiffet
Director of Research at CNRS
Member of the National Academy of Technologies of France
Laboratoire de Robotique de Versailles
10-12 avenue de l'Europe ; 78140, Vélizy ( France),

Although most machines were invented as early as in century 19th, development of computers and telecommunications during century 20th renewed and enlarged their impact in developped countries.

For half a century a new type of machine emerged: robots. In a first step robots were fixed-based machines devoted to industrial tasks and working as simple automata. During the last decades new robots types, goal of which being imitation of some human or animal, mental and physical abilities, started to be proposed. At present time, it is not doubtful that, at short/mean term, personal and multitasks robots from one side, and telework systems from another side, will occur and create a new society revolution, because a large part of scientific and technological knowledges concerning them are not very far from being mastered in specialized research laboratories.

Whatever successful could be the result from a single reduced scientific point of view, a generalization of the phenomenon involving daily life of everyone demands great attention and preparation. Risks are numerous, and the main one is double: machines can be designed without sufficiently thinking to the large variety of users ( friendly-using problem); then, it is clear that the possible machines invasion can mainly result in an enlargement of the gap between developped countries and other ones in development.

The talk will comment some aspects of these problems, relying on a work in progress at the National Academy of Technologies of France, the workgroup being headed by the author. However, author comments must be considered as a personal position and not as an official point of view of the Academy.

Draft 18th Jan '04