Posted on September 1, 2016 by staff

We shouldn’t fear the robotics revolution


A key figure linked to NASA robotics has said humans should not be afraid of robots taking away jobs.

There have been warnings that artificial intelligence could wipe out entire industries, or at least the workforce behind them.

Robots are already being used as carers in Asia while they have been used in the manufacture of vehicles for many years.

Colin Adams, director of commercialisation at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Informatics – the team collaborating on the robotics behind the NASA Valkyrie – said we have been here before.

“This is a cycle that has already been happening for centuries,” he told BusinessCloud.

“Fear of tech tends to come out in terms of robots taking jobs away but any time there has been a major industrial revolution, there has been the same reaction.

“Don’t be afraid, because this happens and has happened in every bit of evolution since we stopped banging stones together to make fire.”

He believes that humans will be able to make better decisions with the help of machines.

“Humans will have to move up the food chain – we’ll still be at the end of it because the machine makes a recommendation that someone has to act on,” he continued.

“We’ve just got more power essentially – the person taking the decision now has more of a chance of it being the correct one.”

Adams says that in order to avoid being left behind, businesses must adapt.

“Look at where the high street is now and you can see the businesses that are ‘dinosauring’ and the businesses that are adapting and evolving.

“The ones using website smarts and doing, for example, both buy online ‘click and collect’ plus saying come into the store to see and understand what there is, these are the ones that seem to be making progress.

“The others that have not picked it up are going backwards and that’s a big evolution point in terms of how society works.”


The University of Edinburgh announced this week that Adams, who has just retired, will receive its highest honour for his contribution to the university.

An alumnus of the uni, having achieved a BSc in Computer Science and Mathematics in 1971 and PhD in Computer Science in 1977, he returned there in 2006 and became responsible for connecting its research to the commercial world.

In 2008, he became director of Informatics Ventures, heading the team which connects, educates and supports Scotland’s technology entrepreneurs.

University principal Professor Sir Timothy O’Shea, said: “You have created a team that has had a transformational effect on the technology sector across the city of Edinburgh and boosted the university’s reputation considerably.

“A thriving technological community has grown up comprising spin-outs and start-ups from the university and public and private sector businesses attracted to the city by our wealth of talent.”