Many England football supporters may still be coming to terms with the appointment of another foreign manager, but research published by the Royal Academy of Engineering suggests that some fans would in fact be happy to see the national team coached by a robot.

As Fabio Capello takes charge of his first England match tomorrow, the Royal Academy of Engineering has revealed that during a recent survey on the use of robots in British society, nearly half of those polled said that they were either ‘very’ or ‘fairly happy,’ to see a robot coaching England.

The question was part of the Academy’s survey on public attitudes towards the future use of robotics. The Royal Academy asked people whether following the development of ‘intelligent robots that can think for themselves’, they would be happy to see androids replacing humans in everyday jobs.

The survey of five hundred people found that:

  • 86 percent would be happy to see machines working as sewer cleaners
  • 55 percent would support committing them to action in the armed forces
  • 46 percent backed a robot coaching the England team
  • 28 percent would be happy for androids to pilot civilian aircrafts
  • 26 percent think robots could carry out medical procedures, such as surgery

However, only 7 percent of those polled would allow machines with artificial intelligence to look after children, and only 6 percent believed that in the future robots’ contributions to society should be rewarded with the right to vote.

In the twenty-first century people are accustomed to machines building cars, computers and circuit boards, but over time we will no doubt see robots assume an even greater role in society and the work place.

For people to trust a machine with the fortunes of the national team would obviously be a profound development. Whether the robot was constructed in England or abroad however, would no doubt still remain relevant to some supporters

Professor Alan Winfield, Associate Dean (Research), Computing, Engineering and Mathematical Sciences at the University of the West of England, Bristol, gave the following comment on the survey.

“For me the most surprising outcome of the survey is that so many people (55%) would be happy to see robots in action in the armed forces. My own view is that this would be a very bad idea indeed. I would not trust a robot to be able to make the correct judgement about when to pull the trigger on its gun. That judgement is hard enough for human beings and – in the chaos of war – the idea that we could make robots smart enough and with sufficient good judgement to make those split second life-or-death decisions is in the realms of fantasy.

Notes for editors

  1. Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship – comprising the UK’s most eminent engineers – provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain’s engineering community.

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