In the news: Kevin Warwick

December 15, 2000

Not all his fellow scientists were happy when Kevin Warwick was chosen to give the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, which started this week.

Some responded by calling Reading University's professor of cybernetics a "buffoon". Others were shocked that he should follow in the footsteps of Michael Faraday, who initiated the lectures in 1825 to present science to young people in an accessible way.

But Warwick, who is always happy to make his fascination with robots as accessible as possible, has remained unfazed by the criticism. He hopes the lectures, titled "Robots, cyborgs: the future for humans", will confirm his description, by X-Files actress Gillian Anderson, as Britain's leading prophet of the robot age.

As someone who has argued that machines will soon take over the world, and who once had a computer chip implanted in his arm to begin crossing the boundary between man and machine, he is used to controversy. To argue that humans will always be superior in intelligence to machines is arrogant, he suggests.

Warwick left school at 16 and became an apprentice at British Telecom, studying for maths and physics A levels in breaks. He took his first degree, in electrical engineering, at Aston University, aged 22, then a PhD in computing at Imperial College, London, where he stayed on for a research post.

He then held posts at Oxford, Newcastle and Warwick universities, before being appointed a professor at Reading aged 32.

Author of more than 300 research papers, he has run experiments showing that watching This Morning is more effective in boosting IQ than last-minute revision. He developed a robotic record producer called Gershwyn that uses genetic algorithms to mix its own music. His electronic cat, Hissing Sid, so disturbed British Airways staff that they refused to let it on a flight.

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