Kevin Warwick

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Kevin Warwick
Kevin Warwick.jpg
Kevin Warwick, February 2008
Born (1954-02-09) 9 February 1954 (age 68)[1]
Coventry, UK
Other names Captain Cyborg[2][3][4][5]
Citizenship British
Alma mater
Thesis Self-tuning controllers via the state space (1982)
Doctoral advisor John Hugh Westcott[7]
Doctoral students Mark Gasson[7]
Known for Project Cyborg
Notable awards

Kevin Warwick, FIET, FCGI (/ˈwɔːrɪk, ˈwɒr-/; born 9 February 1954) is a British engineer and Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) at Coventry University in the United Kingdom.[8] He is known for his studies on direct interfaces between computer systems and the human nervous system, and has also done research in the field of robotics.[9][10]


Kevin Warwick was born in 1954 in Coventry in the United Kingdom and attended Lawrence Sheriff School in Rugby, Warwickshire where he was a contemporary with Arthur Bostrom. He left school in 1970 to take up an Apprenticeship with British Telecom, at the age of 16. In 1976 he took his first degree at Aston University, followed by a PhD degree and a research post at Imperial College London.

He held positions at the University of Oxford, Newcastle University, University of Warwick and University of Reading before moving to Coventry University in 2014.

Warwick is a Chartered Engineer (CEng), a Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (FIET) and a Fellow of the City and Guilds of London Institute (FCGI). He is Visiting Professor at the Czech Technical University in Prague, the University of Strathclyde, Bournemouth University and the University of Reading and in 2004 was Senior Beckman Fellow at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA. He is also on the Advisory Boards of the Instinctive Computing Laboratory, Carnegie Mellon University[11] and the Centre for Intermedia, University of Exeter.[12]

By the age of 40 he had been awarded a DSc degree, a higher doctorate, by both Imperial College and by the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Prague for his research output in completely separate areas. He has received the IET Achievement Medal, the IET Mountbatten Medal and in 2011 the Ellison-Cliffe Medal from the Royal Society of Medicine.[13] Warwick presented the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, entitled The Rise of Robots in the year 2000.[14]


Warwick carries out research in artificial intelligence, biomedical engineering, control systems and robotics. Much of Warwick's early research was in the area of discrete time adaptive control. He introduced the first state space based self-tuning controller[15] and unified discrete time state space representations of ARMA models.[16] However he has also contributed in mathematics,[17] power engineering[18] and manufacturing production machinery.[19]

Artificial intelligence

Warwick headed an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council supported research project which investigated the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques to suitably stimulate and translate patterns of electrical activity from living cultured neural networks to utilise the networks for the control of mobile robots.[20] Hence a biological brain actually provided the behaviour process for each robot.

Previously Warwick was behind a genetic algorithm called Gershwyn, which was able to exhibit creativity in producing pop songs, learning what makes a hit record by listening to examples of previous hit songs.[21] Gershwyn appeared on BBC's Tomorrow's World having been successfully used to mix music for Manus, a group consisting of the four younger brothers of Elvis Costello.

Another Warwick project involving artificial intelligence was the robot head, Morgui. The head contained 5 senses (vision, sound, infrared, ultrasound and radar) and was used to investigate sensor data fusion. The head was X-rated by the University of Reading Research and Ethics Committee due to its image storage capabilities – anyone under the age of 18 who wished to interact with the robot had to obtain parental approval.[22]

Warwick has very outspoken views on the future, particularly with respect to artificial intelligence and its impact on the human species, and argues that humanity will need to use technology to enhance itself to avoid being overtaken by machines.[23] He points out that many human limitations, such as sensorimotor abilities, can be overcome with machines, and is on record as saying that he wants to gain these abilities: "There is no way I want to stay a mere human."[24]


Warwick headed the University of Reading team in a number of European Community projects such as FIDIS looking at issues concerned with the future of identity, ETHICBOTS and RoboLaw which considered the ethical aspects of robots and cyborgs.[25]

Warwick’s areas of interest have many ethical implications, some due to his Human enhancement experiments.[26] The ethical dilemmas in his research are highlighted as a case study for schoolchildren and science teachers by the Institute of Physics[27] as a part of their formal Advanced level and GCSE studies. His work has also been directly discussed by The President's Council on Bioethics and the President's Panel on Forward Engagements.[28] He is a member of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics Working Party on Novel Neurotechnologies.[29]

Deep brain stimulation

Along with Tipu Aziz and his team at John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, and John Stein of the University of Oxford, Warwick is helping to design the next generation of deep brain stimulation for Parkinson's disease.[30] Instead of stimulating the brain all the time, the aim is for the device to predict when stimulation is needed and to apply the signals prior to any tremors occurring to stop them before they even start.[31] Recent results have also shown that it is possible to identify different types of Parkinson's Disease.[32]

Public awareness

Warwick has headed a number of projects aimed at exciting schoolchildren about the technology with which he is involved. In 2000 he received the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council Millennium Award for his Schools Robot League. In 2007, 16 school teams were involved in designing a humanoid robot to dance and then complete an assault course—a final competition being held at the Science Museum, London. The project, entitled 'Androids Advance' was supported by EPSRC and was presented as a news item on Chinese television.[33]

Warwick contributes significantly to the public understanding of science by giving regular public lectures, taking part in radio programmes and through popular writing. He has appeared in numerous television documentary programmes on artificial intelligence, robotics and the role of science fiction in science, such as How William Shatner Changed the World, Future Fantastic and Explorations.[34] [35] He also appeared in the Ray Kurzweil inspired film Transcendent Man along with Colin Powell, William Shatner and Stevie Wonder. He has also guested on a number of TV chat shows, including Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Først & sist, and Richard & Judy.[35] Warwick has appeared on the cover of a number of magazines, for example the February 2000 edition of Wired.[36]

In 2005 Warwick was congratulated for his work in attracting students to the field by members of parliament in the United Kingdom in an Early day motion for making the subject interesting and relevant so that more students will want to develop a career in science.[37]


Warwick's claims that robots that can program themselves to avoid each other while operating in a group raise the issue of self-organisation, and as such might be the major impetus in following developments in this area. In particular, the works of Francisco Varela and Humberto Maturana, once in the province of pure speculation now have become immediately relevant with respect to synthetic intelligence.

Cyborg-type systems not only are homeostatic (meaning that they are able to preserve stable internal conditions in various environments) but adaptive, if they are to survive. Testing the claims of Varela and Maturana via synthetic devices is the larger and more serious concern in the discussion about Warwick and those involved in similar research. "Pulling the plug" on independent devices cannot be as simple as it appears, for if the device displays sufficient intelligence and assumes a diagnostic and prognostic stature, we may ultimately one day be forced to decide between what it could be telling us as counterintuitive (but correct) and our impulse to disconnect because of our limited and "intuitive" perceptions.

Warwick's robots seemed to have exhibited behaviour not anticipated by the research, one such robot "committing suicide" because it could not cope with its environment.[38] In a more complex setting, it may be asked whether a "natural selection" may be possible, neural networks being the major operative.

The 1999 edition of the Guinness Book of Records recorded that Warwick carried out the first robot learning experiment across the internet. One robot, with an Artificial Neural Network brain in Reading, UK, learnt how to move around. It then taught, via the internet, another robot in SUNY Buffalo New York State, USA, to behave in the same way. The robot in the US was therefore not taught or programmed by a human, but rather by another robot based on what it itself had learnt.[39]

Hissing Sid was a robot cat which Warwick took on a British Council lecture tour of Russia, it being presented in lectures at such places as Moscow State University. Sid, which was put together as a student project, got its name from the noise made by the Pneumatic actuators used to drive its legs when walking. The robot also appeared on BBC TV's Blue Peter but became better known when it was refused a ticket by British Airways on the grounds that they did not allow animals in the cabin.[40]

Warwick was also responsible for a robotic "magic chair" (based on the SCARA-form UMI RTX[41] arm) which Sir Jimmy Savile used on BBC TV's Jim'll Fix It. The chair provided Jim with tea and stored Jim'll Fix it badges for him to hand out to guests.[42] Warwick appeared on the programme himself for a Fix it involving robots.[35]

Warwick was also involved in the development of the "seven dwarves" robots, a version of which was sold in kit form as "Cybot" on the cover of Real Robots magazine.

Project Cyborg

Probably the most famous piece of research undertaken by Warwick (and the origin of the nickname, "Captain Cyborg",[2][3][4] given to him by The Register) is the set of experiments known as Project Cyborg, in which he had an array implanted into his arm, with the aim of "becoming a cyborg".[43]

The first stage of this research, which began on 24 August 1998, involved a simple RFID transmitter being implanted beneath Warwick's skin, which was used to control doors, lights, heaters, and other computer-controlled devices based on his proximity. The main purpose of this experiment was said to be to test the limits of what the body would accept, and how easy it would be to receive a meaningful signal from the chip.[44]

The second stage involved a more complex neural interface which was designed and built especially for the experiment by Dr. Mark Gasson and his team at the University of Reading. This device consisted of a BrainGate electrode array, connected to an external "gauntlet" that housed supporting electronics. It was implanted on 14 March 2002, in the Radcliffe Infirmary and was interfaced directly into Warwick's nervous system. The electrode array inserted contained 100 electrodes, of which 25 could be accessed at any one time, whereas the median nerve which it monitored carries many times that number of signals. The experiment proved successful, and the signal produced was detailed enough that a robot arm developed by Warwick's colleague, Dr Peter Kyberd, was able to mimic the actions of Warwick's own arm.[43]

By means of the implant, Warwick's nervous system was connected onto the internet in Columbia University, New York. From there he was able to control the robot arm in the University of Reading and to obtain feedback from sensors in the finger tips. He also successfully connected ultrasonic sensors on a baseball cap and experienced a form of extra sensory input.[45]

A highly publicised extension to the experiment, in which a simpler array was implanted into the arm of Warwick's wife—with the ultimate aim of one day creating a form of telepathy or empathy using the Internet to communicate the signal from afar—was also successful in-so-far as it resulted in the first direct and purely electronic communication between the nervous systems of two humans.[46] Finally, the effect of the implant on Warwick's hand function was measured using the University of Southampton Hand Assessment Procedure (SHAP).[47] It was feared that directly interfacing with the nervous system might cause some form of damage or interference, but no measurable effect nor rejection was found. Indeed, nerve tissue was seen to grow around the electrode array, enclosing the sensor.[48]

Implications of Project Cyborg

Warwick and his colleagues claim that the Project Cyborg research could lead to new medical tools for treating patients with damage to the nervous system, as well as opening the way for the more ambitious enhancements Warwick advocates. Some transhumanists even speculate that similar technologies could be used for technology-facilitated telepathy.[49]

Tracking Device

A controversy arose in August 2002, shortly after the Soham murders, when Warwick reportedly offered to implant a tracking device into an 11-year-old girl as an anti-abduction measure. The plan produced a mixed reaction, with support from many worried parents but ethical concerns from children's societies.[50] As a result, the idea did not go ahead.

Anti-theft RFID chips are common in jewellery or clothing in some Latin American countries due to a high abduction rate,[51] and the company VeriChip announced plans in 2001 to expand its line of available medical information implants,[52] to be GPS trackable when combined with a separate GPS device.[53][54]

Turing Test

Warwick participated as a Turing Interrogator, on two occasions, judging machines in the 2001 and 2006 Loebner Prize competitions, platforms for an 'imitation game' as devised by Alan Turing. The 2001 Prize, held at the Science Museum in London, featured Turing's 'jury service' or one-to-one Turing tests and was won by A.L.I.C.E.[55] The 2006 contest staged parallel-paired Turing tests at University College London and was won by Rollo Carpenter. He co-organised the 2008 Loebner Prize at the University of Reading; a report on the contest's 'theatre of two Turing tests' can be found here.[56]

In 2012 he co-organized, with Huma Shah, a series of Turing tests held at Bletchley Park. The tests strictly adhered to the statements made by Alan Turing in his papers, according to Warwick. Warwick himself took part in the tests as a hidden human.[57] Results of the tests were discussed in a number of academic papers.[58][59] One paper, entitled “Human Misidentification in Turing Tests”, became one of the most downloaded papers in the Journal of Experimental and Theoretical Artificial Intelligence.[60]

In June 2014 Warwick helped Shah stage a series of Turing tests to mark the 60th anniversary of Alan Turing's death. The event was held at the Royal Society, London. Warwick regarded the winning chatbot, "Eugene Goostman", as having "passed the Turing test for the first time" by fooling a third of the event's judges into not making the right identification, and called this a "milestone".[61]


Warwick was a member of the 2001 Higher Education Funding Council for England (unit 29) Research Assessment Exercise panel on Electrical and Electronic Engineering and was Deputy chairman for the same panel (unit 24) in 2008.[62] In March 2009, he was cited as being the inspiration of National Young Scientist of the Year, Peter Hatfield.

Awards and recognition

Warwick was presented with The Future of Health Technology Award and in 2004 received The Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE) Achievement Medal.[63] In 2008 he was awarded the Mountbatten Medal.[64] In 2009 he received the Marcellin Champagnat award from Universidad Marista Guadalajara and the Golden Eurydice Award.[65] In 2011 he received the Ellison-Cliffe Medal from the Royal Society of Medicine.[66] In 2014 he was elected to the membership of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts.[67]

He has received Honorary Doctorates from Aston University,[68] Coventry University,[69][70] Robert Gordon University,[71][72] Bradford University,[73][74] University of Bedfordshire,[69] Portsmouth University,[75] Kingston University,[76] Ss. Cyril and Methodius University of Skopje[77] and Edinburgh Napier University.[78][79]


Warwick has both his critics and supporters, some of whom describe him as a "maverick", whereas others see his work as "not very scientific" and more "entertainment". Conversely some regard him as "an extraordinarily creative experimenter", his presentations as "awesome" and his work as "profound".[80][81][82]

When Warwick presented the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, the lectures were well received by some and were even felt to be inspirational.[83] However, in a letter Simon Colton complained about the choice of Warwick, prior to his appearance. He claimed that Warwick is not a spokesman for our subject (Artificial Intelligence) and allowing him influence through the Christmas lectures is a danger to the public perception of science.[84] In light of Warwick's claims that computers could be creative, Colton, who is a Reader in Computational Creativity, also said the AI community has done real science to reclaim words such as creativity and emotion which they claim computers will never have.[85] Subsequent letters were generally positive, Ralph Rayner wrote With my youngest son, I attended all of the lectures and found them balanced and thought-provoking. They were not sensationalist. I applaud Warwick for his lectures.[86]

Warwick was criticized in connection with the Turing tests held in 2014 at the Royal Society, where he claimed that software program Eugene Goostman had passed the Turing test on the basis of its performance. The software successfully convinced over 30% of judges who could not identify it as being a machine, on the basis of a five-minute text chat. Critics stated that the software's claim to be a young non-native speaker weakened the spirit of the test, as any grammatical and semantic inconsistencies could be excused as a consequence of limited English proficiency.[87][88][89][90] Critics also noted that the software's performance had been exceeded by other programs several times in the past.[87][88] Additionally, Warwick was criticized by editor and entrepreneur Mike Masnick for exaggerating its significance to the press.[88]


Warwick has written several books, articles and papers. A selection of his books:

Lectures (inaugural and keynote lectures):

He is a regular presenter at the annual Careers Scotland Space School, University of Strathclyde.

He appeared at the 2009 World Science Festival[100] with Mary McDonnell, Nick Bostrom, Faith Salie and Hod Lipson.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 "WARWICK, Prof. Kevin". Who's Who 2014, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2014; online edn, Oxford University Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>(subscription required)
  2. 2.0 2.1 Captain Cyborg accepts another degree from puny humans, The Register, 26 July 2012
  3. 3.0 3.1 Captain Cyborg Is Back! Kevin Warwick Predicts the Future Slashdot
  4. 4.0 4.1 The Return of Captain Cyborg, The Guardian, 29 April 2004
  5. List of articles mentioning "Captain Cyborg" at The Register
  6. Kevin Warwick's publications indexed by Google Scholar, a service provided by Google
  7. 7.0 7.1 Kevin Warwick at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  9. Delgado, A.; Kambhampati, C.; Warwick, K. (1995). "Dynamic recurrent neural network for system identification and control". IEE Proceedings - Control Theory and Applications. 142 (4): 307. doi:10.1049/ip-cta:19951873.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Zhu, Q. M.; Warwick, K.; Douce, J. L. (1991). "Adaptive general predictive controller for nonlinear systems". IEE Proceedings D Control Theory and Applications. 138: 33. doi:10.1049/ip-d.1991.0005.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  15. Warwick, K. (1981). "Self-tuning regulators—a state space approach". International Journal of Control. 33 (5): 839. doi:10.1080/00207178108922958.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Warwick, K. (1990). "Relationship between åström control and the kalman linear regulator—caines revisited". Optimal Control Applications and Methods. 11 (3): 223. doi:10.1002/oca.4660110304.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Warwick, K. (1983). "Using the Cayley-Hamilton theorem with N-partitioned matrices". IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control. 28 (12): 1127. doi:10.1109/TAC.1983.1103193.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. Warwick, K, Ekwue, A and Aggarwal, R (eds). "Artificial intelligence techniques in power systems", Institution of Electrical Engineers Press, 1997
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External links