Machine learning, artificial intelligence, and robotic systems are changing our society, our laws, and our social constructs at breakneck speed. We Robot, the annual, interdisciplinary conference on the emerging legal and policy questions relating to robots and the AIs that often control them, returned virtually to the University of Miami School of Law, the founding institution, September 23-25, 2021.
The conference unites those on the front lines of robot design, development, and deployment with legal policymakers and influencers, and even philosophers, in the legal and social structures in the robotic sphere.
Conference topics keep a finger on the pulse of robot law
Marking the 10th anniversary of the conference, We Robot 2021 presented scholarly papers, technological demonstrations, and poster session presentations by North American and international academics, practitioners, and others from diverse fields. The unique conference fosters interdisciplinary collaborations between developers of robotics, artificial intelligence, and related technology and experts in the humanities, social science, and law and policy.
Sample themes and topics of this year’s three-day program included:
Robots and health care
“Diverse Patient Perspectives on the Role of AI and Big Data in health care”
“Somebody That I Used to Know: The Risks of Personalizing Robots for Dementia Care”
“Reported Ethical Concerns Over Use of Robots for COVID-19 and Recommendations for Responsible Innovation for Future Pandemics”
“Driving Into the Loop: Mapping Automation Bias & Liability Issues for Advanced Driver Assistance Systems”
“Autonomous Vehicles as Public Infrastructure: Building an ‘AV Development Index’ for Tomorrow’s Cities”
Robot rights and laws
“Debunking Robot Rights: Metaphysically, Ethically and Legally”
“Examining Correlations between Human Empathy and Vicbots”
“Creating Legal Rules for Robots”
“Artificial Intelligence: The Challenges for Criminal Law in Facing the Passage From Technological Automation to Artificial Autonomy”
Robots and the environment
“Smart Farming versus Traditional Knowledge”
“Robots in the Ocean”
Robots and society
“Social Robots and Children’s Fundamental Rights”
“On the Practicalities of Robots in Public Spaces”
Seminal conference and its goals, more relevant than ever
The conference builds on a growing body of scholarship, much of it shaped by earlier editions, which explores how the increasing sophistication and autonomous decision-making capabilities of robots and their widespread deployment disrupt existing legal regimes or require rethinking policy issues.
“Robots are moving out of the warehouse and into our lives,” said A. Michael Froomkin, the Laurie Silvers and Mitchell Rubenstein Distinguished Professor of Law and a co-founder of the conference. “We are just seeing the start of a boom in everything from delivery robots to medical robots, to autonomous military drones deployed in combat.”
With AI and robotics growing so fast and little time to consider their legal, ethical, and moral uses, attendees considered the issues raised by robots and their benefits in the home, hospitals, business, public spaces, military settings, and beyond.
The purpose of the conference is to continue to frame and report on research agendas relating to the deployment of robots in society, to inform policymakers of the issues, and to help legal design rules that will maximize opportunities and minimize risks arising from the increased deployment of robots in society.
Froomkin echoes the conference’s relevance, “Everywhere a robot goes, it creates legal and policy issues that need to be worked out to make the world safe for both robots and especially people.”
Previously, the conference has been held at Stanford University, the University of Miami, the University of Ottawa, the University of Washington, and Yale University.