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Artificial intelligence

Robot’s debut in UK parliament provokes ‘Maybot’ mockery for PM Theresa May

Pepper’s appearance at an education panel on artificial intelligence inspired internet users to compare the machine to Prime Minister Theresa May

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 October, 2018, 11:24pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 October, 2018, 5:05am

A walking, talking robot appeared in Britain’s parliament for the first time on Tuesday, prompting Twitter users to seize the chance to heap more mockery on Prime Minister Theresa May.

The latest round of public amusement at the expense of the British premier came during a committee hearing on artificial intelligence and “the fourth industrial revolution”.

MPs on the education committee invited a robot named Pepper to answer some basic questions.

Asked whether humans would have a place in a brave new world where AI reigns supreme, Pepper responded in a reassuring voice.

“Robots will have an important role to play, but we will always need the soft skills that are unique to humans: to sense, make, and drive value from technology,” the robot said.

She was asked about a few more completely unscripted matters before panellists moved on to discuss ethics and social injustice.

Pepper listened and twirled her head a few times.

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Comparisons to the premier’s propensity to dance in a robotic manner and speak with methodic precision – traits that earned her the nickname “Maybot” – quickly appeared on Twitter.

“Thats fantastic....but can it do the Maybot,” asked someone named Hugh Duffy.

“Theresa May is looking almost human these days,” Benedict Smyth offered.

And even the PoliticsHome website chipped in with: “NEW: A witness gave a robotic performance in front of a Commons committee... but it wasn’t Theresa May.”

The British leader has turned into a subject of periodic jokes on social networks as she struggles to pull her country out of the European Union without causing too much damage.

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She has particularly taken to dancing – something she did twice during an August trade mission to Africa and then at a Tory party conference this month.

Her moves did not earn high marks from bemused Britons. They also spawned an entire family of Maybot Twitter accounts pretending to speak in the prime minister’s name.