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UK public believes robots are OK for use by military but shouldn’t care for young or elderly

Support for the use of robots and autonomous systems by the military is stronger in the UK than anywhere in Europe but more than sixty per cent of citizens polled believe that robots should be banned from caring for children, the elderly and disabled. The findings emerged in a report published in June, by  Sciencewise, the UK’s centre for public dialogue in policymaking for science and technology issues. 
Many of the reports’ key findings come from the 2012 Eurobarometer 382 report Public Attitudes toward Robotics, which showed that UK citizens tended to agree that priority areas for robotics use should include: military and security (64%), manufacturing (57%), space exploration (45%), search and rescue (36%), and healthcare (18%). The Eurobarometer report also identified the areas in which UK citizens tended to agree that robotics should be banned: care of children, elderly and disabled (61%), education (30%), healthcare (30%), leisure (12%), and domestic use (11%).
Sciencewise commissioned a set of reports to explore public attitudes through market research, opinion polling, academic research, public engagement activities and the media.
The reports found public opinion towards RAS tends to be broadly optimistic in that the technologies are seen as being good for society and potentially able to solve various problems and aid modern living.
Despite this however, many issues associated with robotics technology (such as regulation and management or having the potential to impact on employment) were identified as areas of concern among the public. In addition to the use of robots for the care of children or the elderly, the research also highlighted particularly strong views on the use of robots in warfare.
The reports follow key announcements in the UK, including the identification of robotics as a key growth area by UK Chancellor George Osborne in his 2012 speech to the Royal Society, confirmation of this by Minister for Science and Universities David Willetts in his report Eight Great Technologies, and the July 2013 announcement that the UK robotics industry would receive a £40 million funding boost.
What the Public Thinks is operated by Sciencewise, which provides co-funding and specialist advice and support to UK Government departments and agencies to develop and commission public dialogue activities in emerging areas of science and technology. 
Sciencewise welcomes comments on any other sources of evidence of the views of public or on the research to date.
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