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STEM Seminar 1: Introduction to Autonomy

Updated: Aug 18, 2020

Led by Professor Nick Hawes, the seminar started off with the definition of autonomy, more

specifically in the robotic sense: this would be a ‘device capable of operating without direct human control’, which we implemented in our following discussions. We explored what it meant to be autonomous, whilst we were presented with the question of whether we thought certain things were autonomous or not, for example a human, a cash machine or a thermostat. Although the answers seemed fairly straightforward, debates arose between fellow students as we considered topics such as free will and the control that humans have over computer systems. We discussed how autonomous systems are designed, looking at the key components: an agent and its environment. We also looked at how an agent interacts with its environment and the different ways of doing so. For example if a human was an agent, the different ways of reacting to a stimuli would be reflex reactions, instinctual reactions and deliberate reactions, the latter of which involves a more complex

thought process. To conclude, we looked at examples of autonomous robots.

By Ayeza Akhtar

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