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If robots are the future where do humans fit in ?

With a background in psychology and computer science, it’s Florian Michahelles’ job to get people and machines working together. At Siemens, he heads up Web of Systems, a research group passionate about linking the real world of hardware with the virtual world of data.

Listen below to hear Florian’s take on the future of robots — or scroll down to read the highlights of our chat.

On teaching machines to be self-aware

“People get scared when we say we’re teaching machines to be self-conscious. I think self-awareness is probably the more humble and descriptive term. Being self-aware means the machine knows what it can do, what other machines can do and what it can achieve.”

On why we’re a long way off from a fully automated workplace

“There are still certain tasks that are far too complicated and expensive to be implemented by a machine. By combining human labor and machine precision, you have something that can work together to produce a product.”

On wanting to study a subject that didn’t then exist

“When I studied computer science, I was curious about how to combine computers and people. Today, universities have programmes like human-computer interaction but back then they didn’t exist. So I took psychology as a minor, where I learned about the perception system of humans and cognitive processes. It was a way to start thinking about how humans and people can interact with each other.”

Why robots will always be reliant on humans

“Even if we wanted to, I don’t believe it’s feasible or desirable that machines become so powerful and autonomous that they start telling humans what to do. Machines should be the tools that make the life of humans easier. The human will always be in control.”

At Siemens, Florian Michahelles heads up the research group Web of Systems in Berkeley, California. His roles involves collaborating with universities, startups and corporate labs to support Siemens businesses on digitalization topics. He lives in Berkeley with his family.

Florian is a Future Maker — one of the 372,000 talented people working with us to shape the future.

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