Berlin’s contribution to robotics
Interview with Prof. Dr. Manfred Hild
Beuth University of Applied Sciences Berlin
Neural networks are a template required for sensory perception and thought. But what template do we have to study the template of how our minds work? Prof. Manfred Hild says that robots are the answer. Come with us as we enter and explore the world of neurorobotics in our quest to answer the existential questions to our human nature.
Manfred Hild studied mathematics and psychology at the of Konstanz and completed his doctorate at the Humboldt University in Berlin. Since 2014 he is Professor for Digital Systems at the Beuth University of Applied Sciences Berlin. His research interests include the dynamics of recurrent neural networks and humanoid robotics, with a particular focus on sensorimotor and audio-visual perception, unsupervised learning methods for self-exploration, and distributed networked systems. As head of the Neurorobotics Laboratory, his practical work includes biomechanical design as well as both electronic circuit and firmware development. Other areas of interest include computer music and digital signal processing.
INTERVIEW Teaser, full article in PLASMA magazine 5, release in May 2019
PLASMA: What is so special about Humanoid Robotics?
Prof. Dr. Manfred Hild: My personal research interest and that of my working group is very holistic. More like Leonardo da Vinci and not entirely focused on one topic. We approach robotics in a multi-disciplinary fashion both in the degree program and in the lab. There is electronics, mechanics, form and design, psychology, human & machine interaction, medicine, neuroscience, and physiology. In order to understand these robots, it is necessary to master all these disciplines. At our research lab, we focus on reflecting upon the nature of the human being and the self. Robotics is a suitable platform as a research tool, or subject, to learn something about oneself. How does intelligence work? What is intelligence anyway? What are the basics needed for this? Why can it arise in the brain? Does it have to be a biological cell? Or can it be something artificially created?
Even in science, it is always important to dwell into deeper philosophical aspects of humanity. What is the goal of life and our actions? Where do we want to go and what do we not want? And that’s what sets it apart radically from product-oriented research. We are increasingly finding that young people are more and more appreciative of this, more consciously reflecting, first questioning progress morally and philosophically. We are not looking to replace humans with robots, but with AI might come the freedom of choice or free will. And this must be systematically considered. It’s clear that someday the robot will ask itself certain questions. Such as “why should I serve man?” And this is precisely what should be questioned and treated in the course of study and research. Where should the journey go? What is ethically acceptable? This equally important and a part of studying as computer science, mechanics or electronics.