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Ambassador Lecture Series – Roadmap to Peace?

It is an incredible feat to have the highest representatives of Israel and Palestine in the Netherlands in one table openly talking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The event is a testament to the hard work of the Ambassador Lecture Series team, the United Nations Student Association Maastricht (UNSA) and the European Law Students’ Association (ELSA) Maastricht. Not surprising given the contentious topic, it took more than a year of planning and organisation for the event to materialise. Our two student reporters, Brian Megens and Karissa Atienza, attended the lecture for this blog.
Text: Karissa Atienza
Text & Photography: Brian Megens

© Brian Megens

Ambassador Lecture Series, Israel-Palestine Dialogue, H.E. Mr Haim Divon

H.E. Mr Haim Divon represented the State of Israel. A native of Jerusalem, he has served as the Ambassador to the Netherlands since August 2011. Ambassador Divon’s diplomatic career has spanned over three decades, having received postings in India, Sri Lanka, Canada, and Ethiopia.Meanwhile, the State of Palestine was represented by H.E. Dr Nabil Abuznaid, the Head of the Palestinian Delegation to the Netherlands since September 2009. A Hebron local, Dr Abuznaid’s public service dates back to his tenure as a policy advisor to the late Chairman and President of the PLO, Yasser Arafat during the Oslo Peace Negotiations. 

© Brian Megens

Ambassador Lecture Series, Israel-Palestine Dialogue, H.E. Dr. Nabil Abuznaid

The event commenced with introductory remarks from each participant. Ambassador Abuznaid wasted little time for pleasantries and went straight to business, listing a number of instances of Israeli aggression including the 2014 attacks on Gaza and the burgeoning Israeli government-supported settlements in Palestine territories. To this, Ambassador Divon replied with humour, stating that “we don’t get up in the morning and say, what can we do today in order to annoy the rest of world?” He states that the settlements are not the problem. The core of the issue, he says, is the denial of the presence of a Jewish state while the main obstacle to peace is the refusal to sit down and talk. Ambassador Abuznaid recognises and respects the right of Israel to exist and live in secure borders. However, he is against the Israel policy of occupation. According to him, under this policy, all Palestinians have to go through humiliating checkpoints every day, essentially restricting their freedom and dignity.

© Brian Megens

Ambassador Lecture Series, Israel-Palestine Dialogue

The two student moderators, Jakob Henninger and Adrienne McManus, divert the conversation towards the role of young people in the conflict. Ambassador Abuznaid states that Israeli children are forced to go to war, carrying weapons at 18 years old and patrolling checkpoints. “Why not enjoy the beaches?” he says. He continues that “security comes with peace with your neighbours, all these weapons would not bring security.” Ambassador Divon retorts that if Israel does not send these young men and women to the army, there would be no Israel. The level of threat in this “crazy neighbourhood” requires them to have a strong army, “otherwise, you are out of the game.”

© Brian Megens

Ambassador Lecture Series, Israel-Palestine Dialogue

The conversation turns toward the concept of a two-state solution. Ambassador Divon states that he is very hopeful, but the key is to sit down and talk. However, Ambassador Abuznaid believes that Prime Minister Netanyahu wants to keep the status quo. He believes that Prime Minister Netanyahu will never stop building settlements nor accept a Palestinian state.

© Brian Megens

Ambassador Lecture Series, Israel-Palestine Dialogue

At this point, the floor is opened to questions from the student audience. Maastricht Students reporter Brian Megens who was three weeks in the West Bank for a personal photography project last January, asks to Ambassador Divon whether it is reasonable to expect people who live right next a wall, which is illegal under international law, to set the first steps for peace. Ambassador Divon replies that back when there was no checkpoints and no wall, suicide bombings had killed innocent people. He states that Israel was left with no choice, but he concedes that the wall is “ugly and inconvenient.”

© Brian Megens

Ambassador Lecture Series, Israel-Palestine Dialogue

This is not the first time both ambassadors have sat at the same table in Maastricht. In 2012, Studium Generale organised an event on the Israel-Palestine relationship in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, featuring both ambassadors at the same lecture hall. Have their opinions on the matter changed since then? We do not know. However, one thing is for sure. As a salesman would never say his products are bad, it was in the line of expectations that last week’s Ambassador Lecture Series’ Roadmap to Peace for Israel and Palestine with Ambassadors Divon and Abuznaid provided little concrete solution nor glimmer of hope that the Israeli-Palestine conflict would be resolved anytime soon. The organisation of the Ambassador Lecture Series deserves respect for setting up an event dealing with such high politics. However, taking a more realistic approach for future events might be advisable. Making the two representatives of Israel and Palestine sit together was itself the biggest achievement of the evening as a real dialogue between the two never took off.

Roundtable on Oslo Principles, what are they and what will they mean?

“Cross-border cooperation by nations could be the key to preventing climate disaster”

Climate change, is it a ‘thing’ and how serious is it? The more legal-minded people might have heard or read about the latest ruling in Dutch courts, Urgenda, where a group of academics and private citizens sued the government for non-compliance with its plan to reduce emissions. The court in The Hague gave this organisation the victory, where many had given up hope, and said that the government had to effectuate at least 25% decrease in carbon-dioxide emissions by 2020, against the claimed 40% by Urgenda. Nevertheless, this is a worldwide landmark that is starting a trend where citizens can claim reduction of gasses with legal effect.  

On a related note, not too long ago I attended an interesting event on the ‘Oslo Principles on Global Climate Change Obligations’ at The Hague Institute for Global Justice. This institution is an independent organisation established to conduct research overlapping several fields, develop tools by specialists, sharing knowledge between several disciplines. 

The Roundtable event at the Institute for Global Justice was set up to have an hour of presentations by two professors, after which the attendees were invited to pose questions on the Oslo Principles and their obligations towards countries and corporations. In the audience were members of several ministries, international diplomats, company officials and students like myself.

First speaker with an impressive CV: prof. dr. Thomas Pogge who serves as Leitner Professor of Philosophy and International Affairs and Director of Global Justice Program at Yale University.

Prof. Pogge (left) during his address

Prof. Pogge (left) during his address

Maximizing bargains or a moral approach?
Prof. Pogge started off by stating that cross-border cooperation by nations could be the key to preventing climate disaster. The only problem with that approach to climate change prevention is that in an economic sense we’re still living in a world of competing entities, where everyone’s trying to maximize their bargains. This eventually leads to the so-called ‘Tragedy of the Commons’ where the negative consequences are felt by all, yet the gain is felt by one. The question here is how to distribute burdens to prevent climate change among states.
The Oslo Principles are therefore a cooperative legal framework, with appeal for moral common sense, instead of focusing on the vulnerability-based bargaining where a country with high CO2-emission would have to contribute more than other countries towards making it “undone” (monetary penalties/cutting the emission). However, this seems highly unfair if you consider that these countries are usually the less developed ones, with a growing economy. Pogge mentioned that the goal is to stay below a 2 degrees Celsius increase, which, if exceeded, would lead to vast negative impacts.
The main points that call for action are the following:

  1. Climate change is making oceans less alkaline, which means that the pH level has gone from 8,2 to 8,1. This might seem like a small alteration, but the impact of this has enormous consequences.
  2. With more CO2 in the atmosphere, the heat of the sun is getting trapped in, causing the global warming.

The problem is that if we would stop today with our polluting activities, the earth will still keep on heating up.
On a general note, that’s not a reassuring thing to hear.

Maastricht University’s honorary professor
One of Maastricht University Faculty of Law’s Honorary Professors, prof. dr. Jaap Spier, who is also Advocate-General at the Dutch Supreme Court spoke next.
Both Pogge and Spier led a group of elite academics in international law, human rights law and environmental law and wrote the ‘Oslo Principles on Global Climate Change Obligations’. These principles have been set up to reduce the imminent threat of fatal climate change that is happening right now on a global level.

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Changing Economy, Talkshow with Tomáš Sedláček and Joris Luyendijk

Changing Economy, Tomáš Sedláček & Joris Luyendijk, Studium Generale & SCOOP

Tomáš Sedláček (left) and Joris Luyendijk (right) © Brian Megens

Studium Generale and Scope (study association SBE) organised a talk show about the ethics of today’s economy. They invited Tomáš Sedláček and Joris Luyendijk. Tomáš is a chief macroeconomic strategist at ČSOB Banking Group and member of the Narrative of Europe group which is commissioned by Manuel Barroso. Joris is an anthropologist, journalist for the Guardian and writer of the book ‘Dit kan niet waar zijn’ translated ‘This cannot be true’ about the banking sector in London.

Sitting from out my seat in the lecture hall I can see that Tomáš and Joris have done these kind of events more often together as they are playing with the audience and each other by making jokes and telling anecdotes. Tomáš is the leading ‘comedian’ in this way and opens with a cunning joke on the city’s self-confidence and Maastricht passed with flying colours. Another good thing to know is that according to Tomáš, “Nobody hates Europe as much as the Europeans do.”

Changing Economy, Tomáš Sedláček & Joris Luyendijk, Studium Generale & SCOOP

Changing Economy, Tomáš Sedláček & Joris Luyendijk, Studium Generale & SCOOP

After this comic introduction Tomáš gets more serious and asks us to think of the most perfect society. He comes up with where the elves in Lord of the Rings live, but even there they want to move somewhere else. Another example that he gives involves milking a cow, perfect seems to be not perfect enough. We are always looking for more, bigger, better. Another remarkable message of Tomáš: everyone assumes that Karl Marx opposed capitalism, but was he? Tomáš claims that Marx criticizes the human condition of capitalism which is the alienation of people, but not capitalism itself. Tomáš continuous with an example from Christianity the Garden of Eden, it was perfect, however, just not perfect enough. It is unimaginable to have a perfect society. In short, Tomáš message is that we did not set a goal to reach, therefore, in our drive for more, bigger and better, we do not know to stop.

Changing Economy, Tomáš Sedláček & Joris Luyendijk, Studium Generale & SCOOP

Joris Luyendijk spent two years in the heart of the financial sector London to write a book about how the real financial sector actually works. Are all bankers greedy monsters, and if so, why? He tells that people in the UK have an image of the Dutch as kind hearted but stupid. Joris played this role for the two years when he was working on his book. At the beginning he had a hard time to make bankers talk to him as there is a code of silence. However, when he offered anonymity, more and more people were willing to tell their story. His main finding is that it is not bankers themselves who are greedy monsters, it’s the system that turns them into one. Bankers are exposed to immense temptations and no loyalty from their employers as they can be fired and kicked out of the building within 5 minutes. Therefore, why be loyal to your employer? Bankers are tempted to exploit their profits in the short run although this does imply a much bigger risk for the bank in the long term. As there is no guarantee that the banker will be working for the bank at that period of time, the banker does not care.

In a nutshell, the message of both Tomáš Sedláček as Joris Lyendijk was that it’s the economic system that needs revision, not the people.

All photos © Brian Megens

Anti-Semitism Studium Generale and Concordantia Lecture

Studium Generale Concordantia Anti-Semitism Lecture
Prof. Michel Wieviorka

Studium Generale and Concordantia (study association FASoS) were responsible for another interactive and interesting evening as they organised a lecture, with a debate afterwards, on Anti-Semitism. With the recent events in Paris, the threat of IS and the increasing numbers of Jews immigrating to Israel, anti-Semitism can be called topical to say the least. The lecture was given by many times honoured academic, Michel Wieviorka who is a Professor at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) and President of the Fondation Maison des sciences de l’homme (FMSH). The panel for the debate consisted: Moderator, Dr. Teun Dekker (vice dean UCM), Prof. Fred Grünfeld (IR), Aaron Vinnik (teacher at History department), Zakaria Bouders ( President Noemidia foundation).

Studium Generale Concordantia Anti-Semitism Lecture
Dr. Teun Dekker

Studium Generale Concordantia Anti-Semitism Lecture
Prof. Fred Grünfeld

Studium Generale Lecture Anti-Semitism
Aaron Vinnik

Studium Generale Concordantia Anti-Semitism Lecture
Zakaria Bouders

The Professor starts off with clarifying what is discussed when discussing anti-Semitism. The first point is that anti-Semitism is an anachronism as the word Semite can also mean Arabs. Thus, strictly spoken anti-Semitism is not only anti-Judaism. In real life anti-Semitism is seen as synonym to anti-Judaism. However, the professor argues that anti-Judaism is better to use when referring to hatred towards Jews. Second, how is anti-Judaism different than other forms of hatred? Anti-Judaism is different to other forms of hatred as Judaism is not only a religion, moreover, Jews are seen as ‘race’ as history proofs that Jews which converted themselves to Catholicism were still judged to be Jews by society as they had Jewish ‘blood’.

Studium Generale Concordantia Anti-Semitism Lecture

After one hour, the Professor is done with his lecture and it is time for the rest of the panel to shine their light upon the lecture and give their point of view on the topic. In search for sources of anti-Judaism the debate soon changes from anti-Judaism to the Israeli Palestine conflict. I can feel that this topic is very much alive under the audience as Zakaria was applauded for giving an opinion in favour of the Palestine side. Most panel members openly agreed that the only solution to this conflict is a two state solution. As Professor Grünfeld argues, the solution to the conflict is not the question; the complex way in reaching that solution is the dilemma. Only time will tell if his words are ever going to be realised.

Studium Generale Concordantia Anti-Semitism Lecture
Studium Generale Concordantia Anti-Semitism Lecture

My Way to Make Money with Aaron Vinnik

Studium Generale Lecture Anti-Semitism

As bills don’t pay themselves an income is required, some obtain it by working for a wage, others by starting up their own business and some are so talented that they can make an income out of their hobby. In the Weekly column ‘My Way to Make Money’ we interview a student or a university employee about their job or business and ask them questions about how they experience their work. This week we interview Aaron Vinnik who is employed by the university as a teaching assistant in the history department. Before graduating his masters at the Maastricht University in European Studies with a Cum Laude, he obtained his bachelor degree in History & Political Science at Culver-Stockton College in Missouri. In his spare time he likes to travel and experience new cultures. Aaron has a preference for outdoor sports and is in love with his new race bike which takes him to the beautiful surroundings of Maastricht.

My job
As a teaching assistant in the History department, I am employed to dedicate my time teaching meaning I have no time for research. Normally, I teach one course at the same time. I teach at FaSos, however, Arts & Culture takes only 20% of my time while 80% of my time I end up teaching European Studies students.

A regular day at work looks like…
On days when I teach, which is 2 to 3 times a week, I usually have around 2 to 3 classes a day. Most of the time the students have lectures in the morning followed by the first tutorial at 11am until 1pm, the second class is from 1.30pm until 3.30pm with the last tutorial at 4pm and ends at 6pm. Although it’s the same teaching you do, each class is different and that gives the class new dynamics. If students are well prepared, you can give them more space for discussions while some groups need more guidance. On days where I do not teach, I’m either doing some readings to prepare for classes later in the week, or I am making/grading exams or revising bachelor papers.

I like my job because
It’s dynamic, I’m not teaching the same thing for a long period of time. Over the year, I teach a number of courses, so if you teach something that’s not your cup of tea you’re not stuck to it for the rest of the year. Working with students and helping them understand the material is a fulfilling job. As a teaching assistant, I have more experience with academic materials and therefore I can help them better than if they do it on their own. Another point why I like my job is the working environment in FaSos. The tutors get along with each other and the senior staff is really supportive of us, something you don’t see everywhere I think.

The thing that makes the job hard is
Students who are not paying attention. It’s amazing because sometimes even after multiple attempts via email or announcement in class they still don’t absorb the information. You try to be helpful to students but often they disregard it and can even backfire on you. This is most especially first year students in their first 6 months. They are struggle because they’re not used to the PBL system and/or university. Another factor in making the job sometimes difficult is the third class at the end of the day. This can be tough because you want to give every group the best you have. You want to be as alert as you were in the in the first group. I notice that also some students are struggling with this, from 4-6pm they’re not the most motivated and alert which is understandable because it’s also their end of the day. The challenge as a tutor is to give each class the same benefit from the experience, regardless of the time, participants or material.

I got this job by
applying for it. In my masters I was a research assistant for the head of the history department. He made me aware of the position and advised me to apply because he thought it would suit my abilities. After the interview, I was offered the position which was 2 years ago. I started my job in the summer of 2012.

The main reason for choosing this job is
that I knew I would enjoy teaching because I have done it before so it wasn’t far outside of my comfort zone. It was the first job offered to me after university and nothing else was playing, therefore it made sense to start working for the university. Another reason is that Maastricht as a city appeals to me. It’s a good place to live especially as a student. As a student you’re surrounded by students who you can socialise with. Working is a bit different because people have more obligations and responsibilities. As I’m interested in doing a PhD, being able to do a job where I can develop skills that will become useful when I want to apply for a PhD is perfect. In my job I get feedback from experienced and skilled people from the university.

The time I spent in doing my job is..
Irregular. We have a certain amount of teaching hours. In some periods we’ll be working more than others. The reading and teaching within a course is pretty consistent but the time it costs changes from course to course.  Also the amount of work depends on the specific task I have to do. For example, assisting and grading papers takes more time, with all the meetings necessary, than grading exams. However, in the end all tutors have a maximum amount of hours.

I didn’t expect the job to be..
As interesting as it is. Everyone jokes that the Germans have invaded Maastricht. However, you’ll be astonished by the diversity you have in class. You’ll have Brits, Dutch, Germans, Belgians, Spanish, Italians and so on. This diversity makes it interesting especially because in European studies you try to teach about Europe and its diversity, seeing a mixture in your own class on where you teach about makes it a far more dynamic experience.

My goal for the next years
is to start and finish a PhD in security studies or a related field. Hopefully, I’ll be working in that field. It can be for the government, an industry or a think-tank. I want to apply my knowledge from my PhD in a related field outside of academia for a while before returning to teach.

I love my job because
Over the years my teaching schedule change, and this pushes your own boundaries.  Teaching something new demands refocus year in year out. I get satisfaction from teaching, helping students finding their way in the academic world. Maastricht is a nice place to live, although in a couple of years I want to live in a bigger city. However, Maastricht is close enough to a number of big cities which allows me to travel and explore the areas around me. This provides me with new knowledge for myself and to pass along to my students.

Lecture by Prof. Dr. Jonathan Holslag ‘The Geopolitical Case for European unity’

Lecture Europe by Prof. Dr. Jonathan Holslag

Euroscepticism was a big factor in the last European Parliament elections. The main question was: ‘do we need more or less European integration in today’s world?’ The issue might seem less topical today with the attention pointed at the crisis in Ukraine and IS, however, the question will definitely pop up in Europe’s near future.

In the light of this dilemma, Maastricht University hosted a lecture with Jonathan Holslag, Professor of International Politics at the Free University Brussels. His lecture titled ‘The Geopolitical Case for European unity’ is based around the idea that Europe does not necessarily need more integration but more effective integration/representation.  He argues that Europe has overcome several crisis in the past but today’s economic crisis is different, and, therefore, needs a different strategy. It is different on four points: the crisis of European politics, the crisis of the pragmatic politician, the crisis of the welfare state and the crisis of the European economy related to the balance of power. Holslag argues that for Europe to stay a global political power, Europe needs to act more unified to the rest of the world. He gives an example of China heavily subsidising the telephone market and these telephones come to Europe causing major disturbance on the market. Europe had planned to set sanctions, however, China pressured Germany, by giving Siemens lucrative contracts in China, to vote against the possible sanctions. Germany obeyed prioritising their short-term self-interest above Europe’s interest.

Thus, in order to stay an important political power Europe does not necessarily need more integration on other areas than economy. Holslag says that the way for Europe to get out of the crisis is to act united on relevant areas and not give the rival economic and political powers the chance to undermine this unity.

By Brian Megens

Ambassador Lecture Series: Robotics UMeet

© Brian Megens

© Brian Megens


The second of this year’s Ambassador Lecture Series titled Robots: The Future of Human Evolution was surprisingly interesting. Except for a few robotic jargons, it was engaging, inquisitive and easy to follow. It certainly helped that my evening started off with a lot of pizza courtesy of the ALS team! Structured around the speeches of the four renowned professors from the different departments of Maastricht University, the group of experts introduced the latest developments in artificial intelligence and the ethical questions concerning the development of robots and its influences in human life most notably health care. It also featured presentations from three of the brightest Maastricht students on their idea on possible future human-robot relations. The lucky winner received a gift from the UM gift shop along with the exclusive chance to dine with the four experts.

The ALS team organising the Robotics lecture © Brian Megens

The ALS team organising the Robotics lecture © Brian Megens

Pizza! © Brian Megens

Pizza! © Brian Megens

Live registration of the lecture © Brian Megens

Live registration of the lecture © Brian Megens

all contestants © Brian Megens

all contestants © Brian Megens

The first lecture Success: Luck or Design? was a tremendous success. Having attracted over 400 students, the seats were filled quickly and even students were sent home. This time around was fairly different but not negatively with still 200 students attending the lecture. The target base for this lecture was more selective unlike Robin Sieger’s first lecture which attracted students with very broad interests. This lecture narrowed down the interest group to students specifically interested in ethics and robotics. But as people started pouring in and filling the Mindersbroedersberg Aula, the team breathed a sigh of relief. There wasn’t the long queue that distinguished the first lecture but there was a certain buzz in the air. The seats filled up and the team was ready to go.

 

A warm welcome by our hostesses © Brian Megens

A warm welcome by our hostesses © Brian Megens

The people came well prepared, bringing their laptops © Brian Megens

The people came well prepared, bringing their laptops © Brian Megens

The host for the night was Prof. Dr. Gerhard Weiss. The Chair of the Department of Knowledge Engineering discussed the historical evolution of robotics. Prof. Weiss showed robotics in its infancy stage in the form of mechanical machines to sensor-motoric capabilities leading to cognitive aptitudes and robots eventually reaching autonomy. Prof. Weiss also touched upon the most intriguing questions of all. Will robots eventually take over? Are they our friend or our enemies? He concluded that robots are already everywhere in all facets of human life. The application of robotics is growing as robots’ cognitive abilities and autonomy increases.

Prof. Dr. Gerhard Weiss © Brian Megens

Prof. Dr. Gerhard Weiss © Brian Megens

 

© Brian Megens

© Brian Megens

As Prof. Dr. Luc de Witte took over, we met Paro and the cuddly harp seal quickly stole our attention with its big black eyes, long black whiskers and furry white body. This companion robot is changing the culture of care for elderly people suffering with dementia. The expert from the Department of Health Services Research of Maastricht University states that in his field of work they start with a problem in care and then identify a solution in order to help. He asserted that robotics must solve real life problems in health care not evolve for the sake of evolving.

 

Prof. Dr. Luc de Witte © Brian Megens

Prof. Dr. Luc de Witte © Brian Megens

 

© Brian Megens

© Brian Megens

Paro the robot-seal © Brian Megens

Paro the robot-seal © Brian Megens

Prof. Dr. Tsjalling Swierstra followed this by predicting that we will not be able to predict the future. Why? Because he believes that the future depends on the choices we make. The chair of the Department of Philosophy then presented us a number of scenarios. A robot presented as a child, would this child pornography be considered acceptable as there is technically no harm done? A robot used as a partner in sexual intercourse, would this constitute as rape? If the robot’s memory can be reset and wiped off, is there no harm done? The Chair of the Department of Philosophy & Director for the Ethics and Politics of Emerging Technologies asked some very intriguing and sensitive ethical and moral questions. How should we treat robots? Is there such a thing as mistreating robots? We want them to look like us, be similar to us but different enough so we can order them around to do our biding without feeling guilty. We design them to be “just like real people but not really people.”

 

Prof. Dr. Tsjalling Swierstra  © Brian Megens

Prof. Dr. Tsjalling Swierstra © Brian Megens

© Brian Megens

© Brian Megens

Prof. Dr.Rico Möckel of SwarmLab meanwhile stresses the need for the artificial evolution of robots. He compares the natural evolution in nature, how changes is not planned and yet nature still out performs robots. He states that artificial evolution is needed as it allows the creation of robotic systems allowing the autonomous creation of robust systems behind the imagination of engineers. He gives an example of evolving swarm robots for disaster management or for assistive living. Will robots feature in our future? Prof. Möckel ultimately answers that our present life would be impossible without the already existing robots.

 

Prof. Dr.Rico Möckel © Brian Megens

Prof. Dr.Rico Möckel © Brian Megens

After the four speeches by the University’s expert panel, we move on to the student competition. We started with a presentation from Mark Fingerhuth, a 20 year old Science Programme student. He states that there is an exponential growth in technology further predicting that one day robots will take over our job. He notes this as a positive change. He believes that by passing on all the work to the robots we would not have to work anymore and this will lead to the obsolescence of Monday thus, resulting to the downfall of capitalism. What would he have us do instead? Nothing. From his perspective, we would not have do anything in the future. All of our time will be devoted to entertainment. We would read books and spend our idle time doing whatever we please. One of the four professors quips, the how would we relate to the people in the books? If we don’t have jobs and responsibilities, how can we sympathise with the people we’re reading? We then move on to David Natarajan, a Malaysian second year Department of Knowledge Engineering student. David also predicts that in the future robots will take over our jobs and that we are near this point. By taking over our jobs, society would be better off. He took for example the jury. By replacing human jury members, we take away the emotions on the trials leaving only known facts. He declares that this will lead to a real fair trial. He further predicts that in the future robots will look, act and communicate like humans. But the difference is that they will not have medical problems. The future of robots will not only lie in helping us humans but also our society. The last contestant, Elgianni Boersma, is a Filipino-Dutch second year DKE student as well. Elgianni states that robotics is like toddlers at this point in time. We need to teach them and take control as they are only autonomous in so far. They are good at straightforward task but for the more difficult tasks like driving in Mars, robots still need human direct commands. He asks what do we do when they are fully intelligible? Do we treated them as slaves or do we accept them as one of us? As the population is increasing exponentially, by the time we reach full artificial capacity who can afford them he asked. It would create an even bigger disparity. It was a tough call for the panel of experts but ultimately Mark Fingerhuth won the chance to dine with the four experts on the field.

 

Mark Fingerhuth © Brian Megens

Mark Fingerhuth © Brian Megens

David Natarajan © Brian Megens

David Natarajan © Brian Megens

Elgianni Boersma © Brian Megens

Elgianni Boersma © Brian Megens

It is not whether the future of human evolution features robots but how and in what capacity. They already present in all facets of human life. The question is how much robots are going to be involved in our daily human life. Will they really eventually take over our jobs? I guess that’s to debate for another lecture.

Guest reporter:
Karissa May Atienza

Karissa May Atienza, our guest reporter © Brian Megens

Karissa May Atienza, our guest reporter © Brian Megens