Get curated editors’ picks, peeks behind the scenes, film recommendations and more.
Evolutionarily, pain exists to warn of potentially harmful and dangerous things in the environment, allowing us and other creatures to learn, respond and ultimately survive. Pain also triggers an emotional response in humans, which links the physical and the emotional experience in ways that are difficult to tease apart, though it does seem that empathy is one result of the emotional component of pain. For decades, scientists and researchers have constructed computers to mimic human neural networks. Recently, some advanced robots have been designed with self-preservation mechanisms that vaguely replicate a pain response. So to what extent should robots share in human pain? Combining interviews with experts from the University of Cambridge and elsewhere, together with clips from amusingly relevant science-fiction films and TV shows, Pain in the Machine explores whether there is a sense in which robots could come to experience pain, and probes the practical and ethical implications of equipping the next generation of robots with such a capacity.
Directors: Colin Ramsay, James Uren
Researchers: Beth Singler, Ewan St John Smith
Website: Little Dragon Films
History of ideas
How did ‘personal responsibility’ evolve into its opposite, ‘everyone for themselves’?
The Standard Model might be the most successful theory in science. But what is it?
Thinkers and theories
Bigger isn’t better – the renegade ‘Buddhist economics’ of E F Schumacher
Meet the citizen scientist who changed how we see the Sun, and science itself
Information and communication
The modern world is littered with statistical noise. Here’s how to find the signal
Dance and theatre
Close-up on kabuki – the colourful ‘pure entertainment’ of Japan’s Edo period
On the run from COVID-19, an Indigenous family treks deep into the Amazon rainforest
Building ‘bigger and better’ has pushed cosmology forward. Can it take it any further?
How Hokusai’s Great Wave emerged from Japan’s isolation to become a global icon