Professor Kevin Warwick, the self-proclaimed cyborg philosopher and object of regular Register ridicule, has been having a tough ride of late, finally receiving a bad press after years of positive, knee-jerk coverage.
We have also received a number of very interesting letters from ex-colleagues, ex-students, academics and concerned scientists, including one from head of the Royal Institute, Professor Susan Greenfield, who is in charge of the Christmas lectures which Kev is due to give this year.
Firstly, Susan Greenfield. A highly respected scientist, Susan has obviously been dismayed by the number of letters she has received criticising Warwick's selection as this year's lecturer at the Royal Institute. So much so in fact that she has taken to sending a stock letter out to complainants. This is it:
"Thank you very much for your recent e-mail. As you might imagine it has caused me great concern, not least because as I am sure you will appreciate, it is impossible for me to reverse the current situation. Nonetheless, I am taking your comments very seriously and looking into the matter. I will also share your correspondence with Channel 4. If it is any reassurance, the Christmas Lectures do not usually involve the main stream research of the lecturer since one has to give a much broader introduction in a much gentler fashion. It is quite normal for the lecturer to speak outside of their area: for example, in my own lecture series, I spoke on language, a subject I have never worked on at all!
If you have any further comments, I would of course appreciate hearing them, and hope that we may stay in touch. I would like to thank you again for alerting me to this potential problem, and can only reiterate that I shall be investigating it to the fullest capacity.
We were contacted by someone in the same field as Prof Warwick who felt it best not to start an argument over the Christmas lectures. His advice was simply to leave the country for the period.
Another person, who wished to remain anonymous, used to work alongside Kevin Warwick at Reading University and had this to say about him: "It makes me feel happy that someone is working hard to stop Warwick from ruining the rep of my old Department. Warwick is a nice guy personally but he is causing embarrassment for people with the word Cybernetics in their degree title. Another worry is that sometimes he lets the work of other be misrepresented as his own."
More worryingly, an ex-student of the Cybernetics department at Reading, wrote to us, claiming that Warwick's exhibitionism has damaged his career: "I graduated from the Department of Cybernetics at Reading in the summer of 1997. I was proud to have achieved a good result in an unusual degree from a decent University, and boasted my degree in 'Cybernetics and Computer Science' at the head of my CV. That was three years ago.
"At a recent job interview (before I joined the company I now work for) my prospects were ruined as the interviewer was convinced my degree lay in the realms of fiction. He'd arrived at this conclusion by reading several of Warwick's books, and heard numerous quotes and soundbites in the press. In light of the fact that not many people know that cybernetics is actually a very varied and technical subject, it was difficult to convince him otherwise.
"The fact that I know complex control theory, or have a good grasp of the fundamentals of low-level hardware, AI, feedback theory and realtime systems, meant nothing. In most of the general publics eyes cybernetics is now the domain of madmen who spout infinite rubbish at the cost of making them look like idiotic fools. Unfortunately, those of us who worked to obtain a degree in the *real* elements of cybernetics, and who feel that Warwick is simply clamouring for attention, are now also compartmentalised into this view (it's interesting to note that he always managed to achieve the erruption of disbelieving laughs in his 'future of mankind' lectures).
"So, it is with sad regret that I shall be removing the word 'Cybernetics' from my CV, and simply state a degree in 'Computer Science'. I also urge that you continue to 'out' Kevin Warwick as the publicity seeker he is, if not for the sake of those of us who carry his stigmata, then for the general public."
These emails come on top of many others pointing out other daft appearances by Captain Cyborg and encouragement in trying to make others aware of the situation as it stands.
We have also been asked quite what Prof Warwick is so guilty of. It has been a fair while since we laid out our accusations against Kev, and there have been more than a few stories in between. So for those of you who wish to read a more sober and objective criticism click here. Or read our initial scepticism of him here.
And that's it. So long as Prof Warwick doesn't start up on unjustified "experiment"-based Cassandra teachings again. ®
The compendium of Reg Warwick stories
World's first cyborg: man/machine or pipedream? (11 October 1999)
Home truths: Bionic man takes the Metal Mickey(14 February 2000)
Reg old foe becomes expert in another field(3 July 2000)
Oh no! Here comes Captain Cyborg again(14 August 2000)
Warwick Watch: SFX, lies and masking tape (29 August 2000)