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Blood, guts and swearing robots

Cultural discussion programme. Andrew Marr discusses gangrene, pain and swearing with Lindsey Fitzharris, Lesley Colvin, Beth Singler and Emma Byrne.

Victorian hospitals were known as 'houses of death' and their surgeons, who never washed their hands, were praised for their brute strength and speed. Lindsey Fitzharris tells Andrew Marr about the pioneering British surgeon Joseph Lister who transformed his profession. Anaesthesia was discovered in the 1840s but Professor Lesley Colvin says we're still learning about the complex relationship between the brain and the perception of pain, as well as understanding the potential harm of the increased use of strong opiates. Pain is common to all humans, but could - and should - robots feel pain? This is the question Dr Beth Singler poses in a new film exploring the limits of Artificial Intelligence. And if they are programmed to feel pain, should they also be taught to swear? Dr Emma Byrne looks at the science of bad language and why it can also be harnessed to reduce pain.
Producer: Katy Hickman.

Available now

43 minutes

Last on

Mon 20 Nov 2017 21:30

Lindsey Fitzharris

Dr Lindsey Fitzharris is is the creator of the popular blog The Chirurgeon's Apprentice and writer and presenter of the YouTube series Under the Knife

The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine is published by Scientific American

Lesley Colvin

Lesley Colvin is a Consultant/Honorary Professor in Pain Medicine in the university's Department of Anaesthesia, Critical Care and Pain Medicine at Western General Hospital, Edinburgh.

Beth Singler

Beth Singler Beth Singler is a Research Associate on the Human Identity in an age of Nearly-Human Machines project.

She has co-produced and contributed to a Cambridge University short film called “Pain in the Machine” which won Best Research Film of the Year at the Arts and Humanities Research in Film Awards 2017.

Emma Byrne

Emma Byrne is a scientist in the field of artificial intelligence.

Swearing Is Good for You: The Amazing Science of Bad Language is published by Profile Books. 


Role Contributor
Presenter Andrew Marr
Interviewed Guest Lindsey Fitzharris
Interviewed Guest Lesley Colvin
Interviewed Guest Beth Singler
Interviewed Guest Emma Byrne
Producer Katy Hickman


  • Mon 20 Nov 2017 09:00
  • Mon 20 Nov 2017 21:30