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"Robots and artificial intelligence facilitate a better quality of work, they do not lead to a decline in social welfare, on the contrary".

Interview with Ángel Rubio, Professor of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics at the University of Barcelona. Tecnun

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Ángel Rubio PHOTO: Communication Service

This Thursday 10 January in the Alumni Building of the Campus of the University of Navarra in Madrid will take place the conference: DATA ANALYTICS, application to personalised medicine, by the professor of Tecnun Ángel Rubio. The talk can be followed live at 8 p.m. via Youtube Live at the following link:

We reproduce below an extract from the interview recently conducted with Professor Ángel Rubio by José Luis Orihuela, also a university professor, lecturer and writer. It analyses the impact of technological innovations on modes and means of communication. You can find the full version on Telefónica Data Unit's LUCA blog(

What is artificial intelligence?

Artificial intelligence is the set of methodologies that, using large amounts of data and computers, allow conclusions to be drawn and concepts to be abstracted from that data, which were not obvious. In some respects, artificial intelligence can behave similarly to that of an expert in the field being analysed.

As opposed to natural intelligence, what we would have here is the possibility of working with more information and faster?

Of course, with more information. The point is that today we are not yet able to solve problems as complicated as those that a person can solve. Right now it is difficult to have a fully autonomous robot in an unfamiliar environment, outside a laboratory. The substantial difference is that computers can use much more data and solve problems based on data that are beyond a person's ability to handle.

Autonomous cars and the future of work are dominant themes in contemporary public debate, what other issues are we missing?

Above all, decision support. For example, dashboards in a large company. That, right now, is more important than autonomous cars. As for fears about the future of work because of technology, what history shows is that progress makes your job easier, and makes jobs more human. That robots have taken jobs away from car factory workers? Well, they are welcome, so that a person doesn't have to spend forty years of his life, eight hours a day, putting the nuts and bolts on.

Robots and artificial intelligence facilitate a better quality of work, they do not produce a setback in social welfare, but on the contrary. Today it would be unthinkable to do the accounting of a department store without a computer, perhaps fewer accountants are needed than at the beginning of the last century, but that's OK. Instead of doing accounting, we are doing something else.

And what issues in artificial intelligence are absent from the public conversation?

What does who knows who about me, I think that's something that's important, as well as avoiding abusive clauses from technology providers. Another big topic is the use of Big Data in medicine to find new drugs for cancer and autoimmune diseases, as well as to study ageing.

Where are research and applications of artificial intelligence going in your field?

In the medical field, the search for new drugs (also taking advantage of data collected by wearable devices) and the analysis of the human genome.

Are advances in robotics and artificial intelligence leading to a gradual dissolution of the human/machine frontier? Are we heading towards a permanent Turing Test situation?

It is almost impossible to build a kind of Terminator, you would need a huge battery to run such a robot. In a few years it will be possible to build machines that pass the Turing Test. Machines that, without seeing them, do not allow you to distinguish whether you are talking to a person or a machine. Where it will be more difficult to make progress is on the mechanical side. Robots are subject to the laws of mechanics. Now, computers (not robots) that are capable of behaving like a person, or that pass the Turing Test, that's going to happen. But, when it comes to autonomous robotics, there is a physical limitation, which is mechanics itself.

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