A timely look at ro­bots that Kubrick could only dream of

The Daily Telegraph - - Television & Radio - Michael Ho­gan

Those pesky ro­bots, eh? This week, Face­book shut down a pair of its ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence chat­bots af­ter they in­vented their own lan­guage and started talk­ing to each other in a way only they un­der­stood. Eat your heart out, Stan­ley Kubrick. This was like a sin­is­ter plot twist in a dystopian vi­sion of the fu­ture.

If the tinny tykes aren’t hell-bent on uni­ver­sal dom­i­na­tion (see Doc­tor Who’s Cy­ber­men), they’re be­com­ing scar­ily sen­tient (wit­ness Hu­mans or West­world).

Hy­per Evo­lu­tion: Rise of the Ro­bots (BBC Four) was a timely two-part doc­u­men­tary in­ves­ti­gat­ing how far ro­bots have come and what it could mean if, like in those sci-fi se­ries, ma­chines de­vel­oped true con­scious­ness and emo­tional in­tel­li­gence.

This con­clud­ing episode saw evo­lu­tion­ary bi­ol­o­gist Dr Ben Gar­rod and elec­tron­ics en­gi­neer Pro­fes­sor Danielle Ge­orge criss-cross­ing the globe to come face to metal face with a range of fu­tur­is­tic cre­ations.

Th­ese in­cluded cute Ja­panese robot Kirobo, which was built to keep lonely as­tro­nauts com­pany on the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion; Nasa’s bipedal Valkyrie, de­signed to ex­plore Mars but cur­rently prone to trip­ping over; Sony’s Robovie, which is learn­ing to be a cam­era sales­man; and icub, a tod­dler-like bot form­ing his own unique un­der­stand­ing of the world.

The pre­sent­ing pair ap­proached the tech­nol­ogy from en­joy­ably op­posed an­gles: Ge­orge was en­thu­si­as­ti­cally pro-robot, Gar­rod was scep­ti­cal and oc­ca­sion­ally spooked. She was bright, blonde and North-eastern, he was stub­bly, South­ern and gre­gar­i­ous. They re­sem­bled a nerdy ver­sion of Lau­ren Lav­erne and Giles Coren.

It was lively fare, de­spite be­ing a for­mu­laic BBC sci­ence pro­duc­tion: es­sen­tially half-a-dozen 10-minute re­ports, strung to­gether with clunky segues. Our hosts talked earnestly while driv­ing between lo­ca­tions, stand­ing in front of cityscapes or strolling to­wards the cam­era. One seg­ment on auto-pi­loted ve­hi­cles over­lapped too much with the re­cent Hori­zon doc­u­men­tary, Dawn of the Driver­less Car.

There were all man­ner of moral and so­cial is­sues raised here but one thing’s for sure: we should pre­pare for a fu­ture in which ro­bots will in­evitably play a key part. I, for one, wel­come our new sil­very over­lords.

The South Bank Show (Sky Arts) saw Melvyn Bragg meet­ing one of Bri­tain’s best TV screen­writ­ers, Sally Wain­wright. Hav­ing cut her teeth on fabric-ofthe-na­tion soaps The Archers and Corona­tion Street, Wain­wright cre­ated Bafta-win­ning dra­mas Last Tango in Hal­i­fax and Happy Val­ley – su­perla­tive se­ries which achieved the rare dis­tinc­tion of be­ing both crit­i­cally ac­claimed and rat­ings hits.

Wain­wright isn’t a big one for in­ter­views or red-car­pet ap­pear­ances. She’s some­what reclu­sive and would rather let her work do the talk­ing. Hence this was a rare op­por­tu­nity to meet the woman be­hind the scripts. She turned out to be qui­etly funny, fas­ci­nat­ing com­pany whose sheer love of writ­ing shone from the screen.

We heard how she was a child­hood TV ad­dict who car­ried around a copy of the Ra­dio Times and had an un­canny ear for di­a­logue: “The only part of nov­els that held any in­ter­est for me were the bits in in­verted com­mas, be­cause that’s what peo­ple said. It seemed more alive.”

Show­ing us around her beloved West York­shire, Wain­wright ex­plained how Last Tango in Hal­i­fax was in­spired by her own mother, Dorothy, who joined Friends Re­united as a 75-year-old widow and met her sec­ond hus­band on­line. Wain­wright had trou­ble get­ting the show made. As ac­tress Anne Reid said: “Which TV chan­nel would want a cou­ple of old peo­ple mak­ing love? It’ll be nau­se­at­ing.”

Wain­wright, who cre­ates strong, flawed fe­male char­ac­ters, said: “Your heroine is some­one who you pile s--t on. Give them a lot of prob­lems and that’s where the drama comes from.” Her next project is a BBC eight-parter about 19th-cen­tury di­arist Anne Lis­ter, a ru­ral gen­tle­woman with an openly gay life­style who has been called “the first mod­ern les­bian”.

Wain­wright’s chat with Bragg was con­vivial enough yet she kept on her coat and scarf through­out, as if she might bolt for the door at any mo­ment. Now leave her alone, Melvyn. We need more Wain­wright cre­ations on our screens soon. She’s got work to do.

Hy­per Evo­lu­tion: Rise of the Ro­bots

The South Bank Show

Out of this world: Ben Jar­rod with a Kirobo robot, a ver­sion of which was on the ISS

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.