Further details on our big announcement on 1 April 2018

Head of Digital Cassie Williams takes us behind the scenes of our April Fools video.

  • small bluetooth speaker with the label humphRi

    humphRi was created using a bluetooth speaker and a label maker.

  • The not so real cryptocurrency cRipto.

So, you caught us out! Sadly there’s been no new digital inventions developed at the Ri recently, but there has been a lot of work gone into our latest April Fools video, produced by our new Video Editor, Anand Jagatia.

Like all the best April Fools, our video starts pretty convincingly. The Ri is the historic home of many major scientific inventions and discoveries. And of course the world really needs another cryptocurrency. Doesn’t it?

Well, Dogecoin was started as a “joke currency” in December 2013, based on the “Doge” internet meme. Yet as recently as January 2018 it had an overall value of over $2bn. So perhaps an April Fools currency isn’t such a crazy idea after all.

But, with many economists saying that cryptocurrencies have all the markings of a classic bubble just starting to burst, we’ve probably missed the boat on that one. And given our shockingly awful explanation of how a blockchain works, that might not be such a bad thing.

If you want to learn a bit more about how a blockchain really does work, this video might just help you understand why it’s great for things like cryptocurrencies, but a truly terrible way to revolutionise Edwardian lift renovations. 

Our new Artificially Intelligent virtual assistant, humphRi, is also grounded in the Ri’s rich heritage. He is, of course, named after Humphry Davy (1778–1829), the man who discovered the physiological effects of laughing gas and who was Director of the Laboratory at the Ri from 1801–1825 where he formulated a coherent theory of electro-chemical action. 

  • Detail of a painting of Humphry Davy by Archer James Oliver c. 1810

    Credit: The Royal Institution

Although we had great fun with humphRi in our office, we hope our video provides a timely reminder that the costs and benefits of sharing our personal data online are never clear cut.

At the Ri, we’re working to bring the discussion around online privacy into schools, to encourage the next generation to understand and engage in this important debate. On 16 May we will be holding the Ri Unconference 2018: A Matter of Privacy, bringing together students aged 16-18 to explore privacy in our interaction with technology, human rights, policy and national security. We’ve also teamed up with I’m a Scientist Get Me Out of Here to develop a science Debate Kit and other resources for schools to use, based on the question ‘Should mobile phones be always listening?’

So, is the Royal Institution being replaced by artificial intelligence? Are we using AI to streamline processes at the Ri? And is our ‘Chief Futurism Officer’ really a robot intent on world domination?

We’d like to say the answers to these questions are clear-cut: at the moment we have no plans what-so-ever to replace anyone at the Ri with AI, nor are we using it to streamline our processes. But who can say what the future holds.

Driverless cars are no longer the realm of science fiction and their designers are now addressing moral and philosophical conundrums like the trolley problem. Even videos are now being created by algorithms. At present, these algorithmically derived videos can be found mostly on YouTube, where they’re designed to capture the attention of young children, arguably its least discerning audience segment. And quite frankly these videos can also tend to be rather disturbing.

We can’t know for certain what the future of work holds. But the website Will Robots Take My Job can help you make an educated guess. Just type in your job, and it will let you know the chance it will be taken over by robots. For the record, there’s apparently a 31% chance that robots will take over from film and video editors.

And what about robotic ‘Chief Futurism Officers’ at the Ri getting ready for world domination? Of course that was just our Director of Finance and Chief Operating Officer, Michael de Crespigny, giving yet another stellar performance in an Ri April Fools video.

  • Or was it?

Latest Posts