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Andrew and Kathleen Booth Memorial Lecture Marks 100th Birthday of Pioneering Computer Scientist

Professor Marina Jirotka delivered the 2022 Memorial Lecture, which was an opportunity to celebrate the life and work of Kathleen Booth.

Black and white photograph of Andrew and Kathleen Booth working in the computer laboratory.

On Thursday 9 June, Birkbeck’s Department of Computer Science and Information Systems welcomed Professor Marina Jirotka, Professor of Human Centred Computing at the University of Oxford, to deliver the annual Andrew and Kathleen Booth Memorial Lecture.

The lecture commemorates the pioneering work of Andrew and Kathleen Booth (née Britten) during their time at Birkbeck. The couple worked with influential computer scientist John Von Neumann and designed their best-known machine, the All-Purpose Electronic Computer, in Birkbeck’s Computation Laboratory in 1952. Kathleen, who now lives in Canada, will celebrate her 100th birthday in July 2022, so this year’s lecture was an opportunity to honour her life and work.

In the tradition of cutting-edge computing research, Professor Marina Jirotka gave the 2022 lecture on the topic of ‘Responsible Robotics: What could possibly go wrong?’ Sharing insights from the RoboTIPS Fellowship and the early-stage development of an Ethical Black Box, Professor Jirotka discussed the importance of maintaining public trust in new technologies and listening to and addressing people’s fears. She drew parallels with the aviation industry to evidence the importance of regulation and robust investigation processes when things go wrong.

Professor Jirotka’s research team at the University of Oxford are exploring how to harness the benefits of technology to be of “most benefit to individuals and society and least harm to the environment.” The team is exploring a system for robot accident investigation to minimise the risks associated with social robots that are designed to interact closely with humans.

The lecture was followed by a pre-recorded address from Kathleen Booth and a celebratory drinks reception, including a 100th birthday cake.

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