Category Archives: Robots

See You at We Robot 2018

We Robot 2018 will be held at Stanford Law School, April 12-14. Full details will appear on the We Robot 2018 conference webpage in due course.

I’m looking forward to it, especially since I had to miss the last one due to illness.

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#WeRobot2017

We Robot is happening today and tomorrow. Although I founded the WE Robot conference, for the first time I am not able to attend, and indeed had to withdraw a paper I felt pretty good about. Fortunately the live stream is very good. The papers are great, as usual, but it feels so very weird to be only a remote participant, especially with so many familiar faces on camera and also familiar voices off-camera. As a viewer from a distance, on the one hand I’m delighted that the conference has momentum and a life of its own. On the other hand, I would have loved to be there, especially as it’s taking place at Yale. A lot of a great conference is the hallways, and that of course you don’t get from remote participation, not even Twitter.

See you next year!

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We Robot 2017 Now Accepting Paper Proposals

We Robot 2017—Call For Papers

We invite submissions for the sixth annual robotics law and policy conference—We Robot 2017—to be held at Yale Law School in New Haven, Connecticut on Mar. 31–Apr. 1, 2017. In past years, the conference has been held at University of Miami School of Law, University of Washington School of Law, and Stanford Law School. The conference web site is at http://werobot2017.com.

We Robot 2017 seeks contributions by academics, practitioners, and others in the form of scholarly papers, technological demonstrations, or other projects. We Robot fosters conversations between the people designing, building, and deploying robots and the people who design or influence the legal and social structures in which robots will operate. We particularly encourage contributions relating to how officials, jurists, and citizens conceive of robots and the influence of that conception on law and policy outcomes.

This conference will build on a growing body of scholarship exploring how the increasing sophistication and autonomous decision-making capabilities of robots and their widespread deployment everywhere from the home, to hospitals, to public spaces, to the battlefield disrupts existing legal regimes or requires rethinking policy issues. We are particularly interested this year in “solutions,” i.e., projects with a normative or practical thesis aimed at helping to resolve questions around contemporary and anticipated robotic applications.

Scholarly Papers

Topics of interest for the scholarly paper portion of the conference include, but are not limited to:

  • The impact of artificial intelligence on civil liberties, including sexuality, equal protection, privacy, suffrage, and procreation.
  • Comparative perspectives on the regulation of robotic technologies.
  • Assessment of what institutional configurations, if any, would best serve to integrate robotics into society responsibly.
  • Deployment of autonomous weapons in the military or law enforcement contexts.
  • Law and economic perspectives on robotics.

These are only some examples of relevant topics. We are very interested in papers on other topics driven by actual or probable robot deployments. The purpose of this conference is to help set a research agenda relating to the deployment of robots in society, to inform policy-makers of the issues, and to help design legal rules that will maximize opportunities and minimize risks arising from the increased deployment of robots in society.

Discussants

We also invite expressions of interest from potential discussants. Every paper accepted will be assigned a discussant who will present and comment on the paper. These presentations will be very brief (no more than 10 minutes) and will consist mostly of making a few points critiquing the author’s paper to kick off the conversation. Authors will then respond briefly (no more than 5 minutes). The rest of the session will consist of a group discussion with the discussant acting as a moderator.

Demonstrations

Unlike scholarly papers, proposals for demonstrations may be purely descriptive and designer/builders will be asked to present their work themselves. We’d like to hear about your latest innovations, what’s on the drawing board for the next generations of robots, or about legal and policy issues you have encountered in the design or deploy process.

How to Submit Your Proposal

  • Paper proposals will be accepted via our website starting Oct. 3, 2016. See http://werobot2017.com for further information.
  • When CFP opens, Please use the Google Form to submit a 1-3 page abstract outlining your proposed paper and a CV of the author(s).
  • Call for papers closes Nov. 4, 2016.
  • Responses will be issued by Dec. 16, 2016.
  • Full papers are due by Mar. 17, 2016. They will be posted online at the conference web site unless otherwise agreed by participants.

We anticipate paying reasonable round-trip domestic or international coach airfare and providing hotel accommodation for presenters and discussants.

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Entering the Uncanny Valley from the Human Side


This motion capture/computer graphics video from from Method Studios showcased by Cory Doctorow ought to be used to study the uncanny valley hypothesis. It’s said that as robots start seeming human, but not quite, that will weird people out more than would robots that are indubitably and clearly non-human. Well, what about when humans start seeming like something else?

I think the string people at 0:22 and 1:43 and 2:10 are pretty creepy. YMMV.

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AI Play No More Opaque than Beckett

Sunspring | A Sci-Fi Short Film Starring Thomas Middleditch
In the wake of Google’s AI Go victory, filmmaker Oscar Sharp turned to his technologist collaborator Ross Goodwin to build a machine that could write screenplays. They created "Jetson" and fueled him with hundreds of sci-fi TV and movie scripts. Building a team including Thomas Middleditch, star of HBO’s Silicon Valley, they gave themselves 48 hours to shoot and edit whatever Jetson decided to write.

You can see it at Sunspring | A Sci-Fi Short Film Starring Thomas Middleditch – Ars Technica Videos – The Scene.

It is no more obscure than some Samuel Beckett.

More info at Ars Technica’s Movie written by algorithm turns out to be hilarious and intense…including the somewhat disturbing fact that the AI has named itself Benjamin.

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Drone Debate

In a Wall Street Journal debate today I argue that drones should not be allowed to overfly private property without the inhabitant’s consent due to the privacy risks, the consequent erosion of the 4th Amendment, and other dangers. This echoes some of the arguments in Self-Defense Against Robots and Drones, the recent Connecticut Law Review article I wrote with Zak Colangelo.

Ryan Calo gives the other side, arguing that overflights should be allowed in order to spur innovation. I think the WSJ sees him as the Bolshevik here, as they sum up the debate like this:

A. Michael Froomkin, the Laurie Silvers and Mitchell Rubenstein distinguished professor of law at the University of Miami School of Law, says that drones pose a huge threat to security and privacy, and that property owners should be able to keep them from flying over their land. Ryan Calo, an assistant professor of law at the University of Washington, says decisions about where and when drones can fly should be made collectively, not by individual landowners.

Who would have imagined I’d be the right-winger in a debate on the pages of the Wall Street Journal? I suspect that my former boss, Judge Stephen F. Williams, would be quite amused, although he’d probably describe it as vindication.

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