“I have a problem in my life. I created an android in my image and that has brought me problems. My life is harder since then”. This confession was the introduction of Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro, one of the most internationally famous specialists in computing and robotics, director of the laboratory named after him at the Japanese Osaka University. Ishiguro designed the faces of the geminoids that can be seen on this year’s Festival posters.
Once through the formal introductions, done by Ángel Sala and Jordi Ojeda, professor at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia, using videos and slides Ishiguro showed the robots he’s been working on for almost a decade, convinced that “you can understand humans based on a robot”. The Japanese scientist explained that one of the key lines to his research consists of analyzing and discovering to what point it is important that, in a hypothetical future interaction between humans and robots, they look like real people. Speculating on his presence in Sitges and the fact that, technically, it could be hard for the naked eye to tell a human from a robot, Ishiguro ironically commented: “I think that right now you are all here wishing I was an android”. The researcher explained different experiments he’s done, among them one he carried out at a café, where half of the people present there didn’t realize the inscrutable man sitting at a table was a robot, operated remotely by Ishiguro, who gave him his own voice.
What does being human consist of? As the minutes went by, the conference turned to philosophical questions. Ishiguro talked about his participation as a consultant in the film Surrogates and he added that something happened to him that was similar to one of the situations in the film when he went to a faculty with his android and they commented that he looked more and more like his substitute. “It should be the other way around! They should be telling me my substitute looks like me”, Ishiguro exclaimed. “We are a piece of fresh meat, just like a steak or a chop”, he added. The question would be what will be left of the human condition once the human body is substituted by a machine. Ishiguro said goodbye to those attending in the Tramuntana Room, offering his services, as of now, to the film industry, while he assured them that he will continue “trying to understand the human being”.