Consummate attention-seeker Kevin Warwick has admitted to snooping on the public in a previous life. Warwick made the creepy confession on Radio 4, recalling an earlier job as a GPO engineer:
"I remember taking ten different calls and plugging them all together; one call would continue, the other nine would listen in. Then I'd patch everything back again."
In a 30-minute interview with Michael Buerk, Warwick compared his cat-chipping operation a decade ago to Yuri Gagarin's first space flight. They were both scientific pioneers.
Warwick's 1998 book predicting that humanity would become enslaved to cyborgs didn't seem to impress presenter Buerk.
"Isn't this gloriously self-publicising scaremongering? It seems frankly laughable," wonders Buerk.
Warwick disagreed, and said that the internet showed how "we've committed our lives to machines".
"But there's a difference between being dependent, and machines performing autonomously?" asked Buerk.
"Get with it Michael, you are programmed genetically," the great man explained. "Then you learn. A lot of machines now actually learn and adapt too."
But they still can't tell the difference between sarcasm and irony - and neither, it seems, can Warwick. ®
We note that Professor Warwick's Wikipedia entry has been the subject of vigorous edit wars - perhaps proof that the robots are out in force - with the result that his entry was miraculously cleansed of the chief accusation against him. The following passage has been removed:
"Warwick's tendency to court the media has led some of his critics to accuse him of concentrating on publicity at the cost of research, grossly exaggerating the importance and implications of his "experiments". For example, the Society for the Study of Artificial Intelligence and the Simulation of Behaviour complained to the organisers of the 2000 Christmas Lectures about their choice of Kevin Warwick, prior to his appearance. They claimed that "he is not a spokesman for our subject and allowing him influence through the Christmas lectures is a danger to the public perception of science."
Six years ago Warwick was invited to be one of Twelve Wise Men who choose which projects get public research funding.