Food 4 Thought Forum at WSU Parramatta City Campus

MACHINES: James Wright said in order to be successful in giving movement back to the paralsyed, technology needs to be smart enough to learn about us as humans.

MACHINES: James Wright said in order to be successful in giving movement back to the paralsyed, technology needs to be smart enough to learn about us as humans.

Machines are watching us, they are listening to us, living with us and soon they will be living inside us.

As the world comes to grips with an ever growing technological society, a question that is often asked is: Can and should we trust machines?

Parramatta Square will be the stage for a heated Q&A style event that discusses just such topics on Wednesday, April 26.

Headlined by Western Sydney University researchers, the Food 4 Thought Forum brings the most controversial topics of today into a space where they can be broken down, analysed and discussed before a large public audience.

James Wright, a bio-medical engineer with the MARCS Institute for Brain, Behaviour and Development, believes that a symbiotic relationship between man and machine is necessary if society is to continue to progress.

The most important thing about embracing technology is about understanding it.

James Wright

“As a society, we already trust machines,” he said.

“If we didn’t, then we wouldn’t rely so heavily on our smart devices to correct our spelling, give us directions, manage our finances or tell us the weather.”

He said Australia is now in the midst of an ageing population crisis that continues to grow. “There are about 3.5 million people in Australia over 65 and more than half of this group is reported to be living with a disability that restricts the performance of their everyday activities,” Mr Wright said.

“What we are likely to see is greater dependence on technological aids to restore movement and independence in our older residents. We need to be prepared to allow the machines to do their job.”

Mr Wright is developing an interface for a prosthetic limb, or “exoskeletal arm” to improve the lives of stroke victims, amputees and those who are paralysed.

“I’m trying to work out just how to plug an exoskeleton into a human being using a method that allows direct communication between the prosthetic limb and the nervous system in order to control movement and sensation,” he said.

“In theory, this interface will connect an intelligent, semi-autonomous system into the nerves inside a person’s arm. For this to be effective, this system will also need to understand patterns of behaviour and make informed decisions about the welfare of its user.”

  • April 26,12.30pm to 2pm, Parramatta Square, WSU Parramatta City Campus, 169 Macquarie Street, Parramatta. Register by April 21: westernsydney.edu.au/food4thought