Visions of a Robot Future: Towards a Pragmatic Approach for Future Speculation.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 10:15
Location: Hörsaal 6A P (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Anna WILLIAMS, Nesta, United Kingdom
The term “sociology of the future” has been used (Selin, 2008; Bell & Mau 1971; Adam, 2005) to describe the emerging field of study, which seeks to understand “future consciousness” (Selin, 2008:1878). By investigating the methodologies, theories and complexities of anticipation used in the study of Robotics and Autonomous systems (RAS), this presentation will introduce a paper which explored the sociology of the future and suggested some ways in which the field could strengthen its practice.

While the social sciences are comfortable studying past ideas about the future (‘past futures’), our inability to collect ‘proof’ for any element of what is yet to come precludes any application of these theories to ‘future futures’ (Adam 2006). The future is epistemologically interesting because it exists only in our present consciousness, yet has great influence on the material world. ‘Future visions’ refer to what is yet to happen; these ideas only remain in the future until they reach fruition. The future is therefore epistemologically and ontologically uncertain. 

This presentation will explore the findings from a paper, which takes up the notion of the future to investigate the discourse around RAS, to uncover the limitations of foresight. The paper examines the various beliefs and values arising from the RAS discourse, as well as surveying the underlying philosophies of practical futures approaches. The implications of this are discussed in terms of their potential to inform the improvement of speculative approaches to the future. I consider this case as a springboard to establishing a constitution for speculative foresight based on a set of new principals. I propose that the practice and its practitioners should uphold a standard set of ethics that form a written constitution for speculative foresight. This presentation will discuss the possibilities for forming a new constitution to guide the overhaul of foresight.