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BBC 6 minute English-Can robots care for us

BBC 6 minute English-Can robots care for us

BBC 6 minute English-Can robots care for us


Transcript of the podcast

Note: This is not a word-for-word transcript

.Rob: Hello. This is 6 Minute English. I’m Rob. And joining me to do this is Sam

.Sam: Hello

Rob: In this programme, we’re talking about robots. Robots can perform many tasks, but they’re now being introduced in social care to operate as carers, to look after the sick and elderly. We’ll be discussing the positive and negative issues around this but first, let’s set you a question to answer, Sam. Are you ready for this

.Sam: Fire away

…Rob: Do you know in which year was the first commercial robot built? Was it in

a) 1944

b) 1954, or

?c) 1964

.Sam: They’re not a brand new invention, so I’ll go for 1954

Rob: OK, we’ll I’ll tell you if you’re right or wrong, at the end of the programme. So, let’s talk more about robots, and specifically ones that are designed to care for people. Traditionally, it’s humans working as nurses or carers who take care of elderly people – those people who are too old or too unwell to look after themselves

Sam: But finding enough carers to look after people is a problem – there are more people needing care than there are people who can help. And recently in the UK, the government announced a £34 million fund to help develop robots to look after us in our later years

Rob: Well, robot carers are being developed but can they really learn enough empathy to take care of the elderly and unwell? Empathy is the ability to understand how someone feels by imagining what it would be like to be in that person’s situation

Sam: Well, let’s hear about one of these new robots now, called Pepper. Abbey Hearn-Nagaf is a research assistant at the University of Bedfordshire. She spoke to BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours programme and explained how Pepper is first introduced to someone in a care home

Abbey Hearn-Nagaf, research assistant, University of Bedfordshire

We just bring the robot to their room. And we talk about what Pepper can’t do, which is important so we can’t provide physical assistance in any way. It does have hands, it can wave… when you ask for privacy, it does turn around and sort of cover its eyes with its hands but that’s the most it does. It doesn’t grip anything, it doesn’t move anything because we’re more interested to see how it works as a companion – having something there to talk to, to converse with, to interact with

.Rob: So, Abbey described how the robot is introduced to someone

Sam: She was keen to point out that this robot has limitations – things it can’t do. It can wave or turn round when a person needs privacy – to be private – but it can’t provide physical assistance. This means it can’t help someone by touching or feeling them

Rob: But that’s OK, Abbey says. This robot is designed to be a companion – someone who is with you to keep you company – a friend in other words that you can converse or talk with

Sam: Well, having a companion is a good way to stop people getting lonely, but surely a human is better for that – surely they understand you better than a robot ever can

Rob: Well, innovation means that robots are becoming cleverer all the time. And as we’ve mentioned, in the UK alone there is a growing elderly population and more than 100,000 care assistant vacancies. Who is going to do all the work

Sam: I think we should hear from Dr Sarah Woodin, a health researcher in independent living from Leeds University, who also spoke to the BBC’s You and Yours programme. She seems more realistic about the introduction of robot carers

Dr Sarah Woodin, Leeds University

I think there are problems if we consider robots as replacement for people. We know that money is tight – if robots become mass-produced there could be large institutions where people might be housed and abandoned to robots … I do think questions of ethics need to come into the growth and jobs agenda as well because sometimes they’re treated very separately

Rob: OK, so Sarah Woodin suggests that when money is tight – meaning there is only just enough – making robots in large quantities – or mass-produced – might be a cheaper option than using humans. And she says people might be abandoned to robots

Sam: Yes, abandoned means left alone in a place, usually forever. So she says it might be possible that someone ends up being forgotten and only having a robot to care for them. So is this right, ethically

Rob: Yes well, she mentions ethics – that’s what is morally right – and that needs to be considered as part of the jobs agenda. So, we shouldn’t just consider what jobs vacancies need filling but who and how it should be done. And earlier I asked you, Sam, did you know in which year was the first commercial robot built? And you said

.Sam: I said 1954

!Rob: Well you didn’t need a robot to help you there because you are right. Well done

Sam: Now let’s do something a robot can’t do yet, and that’s recap the vocabulary we’ve highlighted today, starting with empathy

Rob: Empathy is the ability to understand how someone feels by imagining what it would be like to be in that person’s situation

.Sam: Physical assistance describes helping someone by touching them

.Rob: We also mention a companion – that’s someone who is with you and keeps you company

.Sam: Our next word was tight – in the context of money, when money is tight it means there is not enough

.Rob: Abandoned means left alone in a place, usually forever

Sam: And finally, we discussed the word ethics – we hear a lot about business ethics or medical ethics – and it means the study of what is morally right

Rob: OK, thank you, Sam. Well, we’ve managed to get through 6 Minute English without the aid of a robot. That’s all for now but please join us again soon. Goodbye

!Sam: Bye bye everyone

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