Europeans say robots ‘necessary’
More than two-thirds of EU citizens – 70 per cent – have a positive view of robots, according to a new EU Eurobarometer survey. The majority agrees that robots “are necessary as they can do jobs that are too hard or too dangerous for people” (88 per cent) and that “they are a good thing for society because they help people” (76 per cent).
The survey found that people who have some personal experience with robots are more likely to have a positive view (88 per cent) than the wide majority who lack this experience (68 per cent). The more interested in science people are the more positive they tend to be towards robots (86 per cent of EU citizens who are very interested in science and technology hold positive views about robots, compared to only 42 per cent of those who are not interested).
EU citizens have clear views about the areas where robots should operate: they should work in areas that are too difficult or too dangerous for humans, like space exploration (52 per cent consider this a priority), manufacturing (50 per cent), military and security uses (41 per cent) and search and rescue tasks (41 per cent).
However it seems that the Maltese are a little less enthusiastic about robots compared to other Europeans. Only 54 percent of Maltese have a positive view of robots with 81 per cent saying that the can do jobs that are too hard or dangerous for people and 68 per cent saying that they are good because they help people. The Maltese think robots are most suited for search and rescue, space exploration and manufacturing.
Robots are widely regarded as essential for Europe’s industrial competitiveness, the European Commission said. But there is a multiplicity of new applications where robots could also contribute to the well-being of people, including the most vulnerable members of our society. Capitalising on this potential will require open debate and investment.
Boosting research and innovation in robotics is therefore one of the priorities of the Digital Agenda for Europe. For the period 2007-2013, the European Commission has spent about €600 million in robotics research; from 2013 to 2020, €14 billion are earmarked to support key enabling and industrial technologies such as robotics. Next week, the Commission will join leading European companies to commit to pool research and innovation efforts and prepare for a public-private partnership in robotics.