Madeleine Elish on ‘Moral Crumple Zones: Cautionary Tales in Human Robot Interaction’

Madeleine Elish

Madeleine Elish

A prevailing rhetoric in human-robot interaction is that automated systems will help humans do their jobs better. Robots will not replace humans, but rather work alongside and supplement human work. Even when most of a system will be automated, the concept of keeping a “human in the loop” assures that human judgment will always be able to trump automation. This rhetoric emphasizes fluid cooperation and shared control. In practice, the dynamics of shared control between human and robot are more complicated, especially with respect to issues of accountability. As control has become distributed across multiple actors, our social and legal conceptions of responsibility are still generally about an individual. If there’s an accident, we intuitively—and our laws, in practice—want someone to take the blame.

The result of this ambiguity is that humans may emerge as “liability sponges” or “moral crumple zones.” Just as the crumple zone in a car is designed to absorb the force of impact in a crash, the human in a robotic system may become simply a component—accidentally or intentionally—that is intended to bear the brunt of the moral and legal penalties when the overall system fails.

Madeleine Elish’s paper uses the concept of “moral crumple zones” within human-machine systems as a lens through which to think about the limitations of current design paradigms and frameworks for accountability in human-robot systems. It begins by examining historical instances of “moral crumple zones” in the fields of aviation, nuclear energy and automated warfare. For instance, through an analysis of technical, social and legal histories of aviation autopilots, which can be seen as an early or proto-autonomous technology, we observe a counter-intuitive focus on human responsibility even while human action is increasingly replaced by automated control. From the perspective of both legal liability and social perception, the systems which govern autopilots and other flight management systems have remained remarkably unaccountable in the case of accidents even while these autopilot systems are primarily in control of flight.

In all of the systems discussed, the paper analyzes the dimensions of distributed control at stake while also mapping the degree to which this control of and responsibility for an action are proportionate. It argues that an analysis of the dimensions of accountability in automated and robotic systems must contend with how and why accountability may be misapplied and how structural conditions enable this misunderstanding. How do non-human actors in a system effectively deflect accountability onto other human actors? And how might future models of robotic accountability require this deflection to be controlled? At stake is the potential ultimately to protect against new forms of consumer and worker harm.

This paper presents the concept of the “moral crumple zone” as both a challenge to and an opportunity for the design and regulation of human-robot systems. By articulating mismatches between control and responsibility, we argue for an updated framework of accountability in human-robot systems, one that can contend with the complicated dimensions of cooperation between human and robot.

Madeleine Elish will present Moral Crumple Zones: Cautionary Tales in Human Robot Interaction on Friday, April 1st at 8:45 AM with discussant Rebecca Crootof at the University of Miami Newman Alumni Center in Coral Gables, Florida.

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Call for Posters: Present Your Research at We Robot 2016

Applications are now open for the first-ever We Robot poster session – proposals will be accepted on a rolling basis until March 8, 2016.

We seek late-breaking and cutting edge projects. This session is ideal for researchers to get feedback on a work in progress and professionals, academics and graduate students are all encouraged to participate. At least one of the authors of each accepted poster should plan to be present at the poster during the entire poster session on the afternoon of April 1, 2016 and for a “lightning round” of one-minute presentations.

How to propose a poster session. Please send an up to 400 word description of what you have or are doing, with links to any relevant photos or audio visual information, as well as your C.V., via the conferencing system at https://cmt.research.microsoft.com/ROBOT2016/. Please be sure to choose the “Posters” track for your upload. Submissions are due by March 8, 2016. We’ll accept poster proposals on a rolling basis. Remember, at least one author of an accepted poster must register at the conference to submit the final version – but we’ll waive the conference fee for that person.

About the Conference. We Robot 2016 will be held in Coral Gables, Florida on April 1-2, 2016 at the University of Miami School of Law, with a special day of Workshops on March 31. We Robot is the premiere US conference on law and policy relating to Robotics. It began at the University of Miami School of Law in 2012, and has since been held at Stanford and University of Washington. Attendees include lawyers, engineers, philosophers, robot builders, ethicists, and regulators who are on the front lines of robot theory, design, or development. The We Robot 2016 conference web site is http://robots.law.miami.edu/2016.

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We Robot Preliminary Program

Registration for We Robot 2016 is now open.  Please check the official We Robot 2016 Program for any changes to this preliminary program.

Thursday, March 31

Workshops

9:00am Check-in & breakfast

9:30am Juris Machina: Legal Aspects of Robotics
Organizer: Woody Hartzog, Cumberland School of Law at Samford University

11:00am Break

11:15am Electronic Love, Trust, & Abuse: Social Aspects of Robotics
Organizer: Kate Darling, Research Specialist at MIT Media Lab. Fellow at the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet & Society. Affiliate at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

12:45pm Lunch

2:00pm “The Robot Revolution has been Rescheduled (until we can debug the sensors)”: Technical Aspects of Robotics
Organizer: William D. Smart, Robotics Program, Oregon State University

3:30pm Break

3:45pm Funding the Future: Financial Aspects of Robotics
Organizer: Dan Siciliano, Rock Center for Corporate Governance, Stanford Law School

5:15pm Wrap up


Friday, April 1st

8:00am

Check-in and Breakfast

8:30am

Introductions

Welcome Remarks: Patricia White, University of Miami School of Law
Introductory Remarks and Introduction of Sponsors: A. Michael Froomkin, University of Miami School of Law, Program Chair

8:45am

Moral Crumple Zones: Cautionary Tales in Human Robot Interaction
Madeleine Elish, The Intelligence & Autonomy Initiative, Data & Society
Discussant: Rebecca Crootof, The Information Society Project, Yale Law School

10:00am Break

10:15am

Privacy in Human-Robot Interaction: Survey and Future Work
Matthew Rueben, Robotics Program, Oregon State University
William D. Smart, Robotics Program, Oregon State University
Discussant: Ashkan Soltani, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

11:30am Break

11:45am

How to Engage the Public on the Ethics and Governance of Lethal Autonomous Weapons
Jason Millar, Philosophy, Queen’s University
AJung Moon, Engineering, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland
Discussant: Peter Asaro, School of Media Studies, The New School for Public Engagement, Stanford Law School, International Committee for Robot Arms Control

12:30pm Lunch

1:30pm

Demonstration: Legal and Ethical Implications for Robots in our Life
Olivier Guihelm, Aldebaran, SoftBank Robotics

3:45pm Break

3:00pm

Hot Topic: Autonomous Vehicles

Autonomous Vehicles, Predictability, and Law
Harry Surden, University of Colorado Law School
Connect Cars – Recent Legal developments
Françoise Gilbert,  Greenberg Traurig LLP, Palo Alto, California
Raffaele Zallone, IT Law, the Bocconi University, ITC Committee, the European Lawyers Association
Discussant: Dan Siciliano, Rock Center for Corporate Governance, Stanford Law School

4:30pm

Robots In American Law
Ryan Calo, University of Washington School of Law
Discussant: A. Michael Froomkin, University of Miami School of Law, Program Chair

5:45pm

Poster Session & Reception

7:00pm Birds of a Feather Sessions@ Local restaurants


Saturday, April 2nd

8:00am

Registration and Breakfast

8:30am

Privacy and Healthcare Robots – An ANT analysis
Aurelia Tamo, The Chair for Information and Communication Law and Visiting Researcher, The Institute for Pervasive Computing, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology
Christoph Lutz, Institute for Media and Communications Management, University of St. Gallen
Discussant: Matt Beane, MIT Sloan School of Management

9:45am Break

10:00am

Institutional Options for Robot Governance
Dr. Aaron Mannes, Apex Data Analytics Engine, HSARPA Department of Homeland Security
Discussant: Harry Surden, University of Colorado Law School

11:15am Break

11:30am

Will #BlackLivesMatter to RoboCop?
Peter Asaro, School of Media Studies, The New School for Public Engagement, Stanford Law School, International Committee for Robot Arms Control
Discussant: Mary Anne Franks, University of Miami School of Law

12:15pm

Special Event: Autonomous Technologies and their Societal Impact
Raj Madhavan, Future Directions Committee, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers;
Founder & CEO, HumRobTech, LLC & Distinguished Visiting Professor of Robotics, Amrita
University, India.

12:30pm Lunch

1:30pm

Demonstration: Openrov And Openrov Trident: Democratizing Exploration, Conservation, And Marine Science Through Low-Cost Open-Source Underwater Robots
Andrew Thaler, OpenROV
David Land, OpenROV

3:00pm Break

3:15pm

Siriously? Free Speech Rights for Artificial Intelligence
Helen Norton, University of Colorado School of Law
Toni Massaro, University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law
Discussant: Margot E. Kaminski, Ohio State University

4:15pm Break

4:30pm

What do We Really Know About Robots and the Law?
William D. Smart, Robotics Program, Oregon State University
Discussant: Ian Kerr, University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law, Faculty of Medicine, and Department of Philosophy.

5:15pm

Final Remarks: A. Michael Froomkin, University of Miami School of Law


All events April 1-2 at University of Miami Newman Alumni Center except Birds of a Feather Sessions.

Workshops March 31 will be held at the University of Miami School of Law.

You can register just for the main event or the conference and the workshops.

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Rolling CFP Extension

UPDATE: We’ve closed the paper submission window now.

We’ll continue to accept We Robot 2016 paper proposals on a rolling, space-available, basis until we’ve made up the full program — although the official deadline for abstracts remains midnight tonight (Nov. 1) your time. In other words, if you want to maximize your chances of getting your paper accepted, get the abstract in very soon. But we won’t refuse your paper just because it’s late until we’ve filled our dance card. Of course, the later we get it, the more we’ll have filled up the program. The fewer slots available for it, the lower your chances…

This is the same process we used successfully two years ago. The problem with an outright extension is that it pushes back the date to give people a reply as to whether their paper has been accepted, and in past years some people complained about that delay.

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We Robot 2016 Registration is Now Open

Registration for We Robot 2016 is now open.

Register early to get the early bird rate! (Note: If your paper is selected for the conference or if you are a discussant you will not have to pay a registration fee.)

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We Robot 2016 Call for Papers, Demonstrations, and Participants

We invite submissions for We Robot 2016 to be held in Coral Gables, Florida on April 1-2, 2016 at the University of Miami School of Law.  We Robot–the premier US conference on law and policy relating to Robotics that began at the University of Miami School of Law in 2012, and has since been held at Stanford and University of Washington–returns to Miami Law April 1st-2nd in 2016. Attendees include lawyers, engineers, philosophers, robot builders, ethicists, and regulators who are on the front lines of robot theory, design, or development. The main conference will be preceded by a day of special workshops (see below). The conference web site is http://robots.law.miami.edu/2016.

We Robot 2016 seeks contributions by academics, practitioners, and others in the form of scholarly papers or demonstrations of technology or other projects. We Robot fosters conversations between the people designing, building, deploying and using robots, and the people who design or influence the legal and social structures in which robots will operate. We particularly encourage contributions resulting from interdisciplinary collaborations, such as those between legal, ethical, economics, or policy scholars and roboticists.

This conference will build on the growing body of scholarship that explores the increasing sophistication and decision-making capabilities of robots, in collaboration with humans and autonomously, and the increasingly widespread deployment of robots everywhere from the home, to hospitals, to public spaces, to the battlefield. All of this disrupts existing legal regimes or requires rethinking of various policy issues. This year the program committee is especially interested in papers that discuss issues relating to the deployment of robots in positions that put them in direct contact with people, but as always we remain open to cutting-edge works on any topics fitting within our larger mission. Surprise us. Educate us. We’re listening.

This year’s conference will involve several types of presentations and events. We Robot is organized as a primarily single-track event. Thus, although each type of presentation has its own “track” for submission and evaluation, the actual conference will consist of a mix of each of the following sequentially rather than simultaneously:

1. Scholarly Papers. Topics of interest for the scholarly paper portion of the conference include but are not limited to:

  • The impact of robots on the jobs, the economy, and the workforce.
  • Comparative perspectives on the regulation of robotic technologies.
  • Assessment of what institutional configurations, if any, would best serve to integrate robotics into society responsibly.
  • Effects of employment of autonomous weapons in the military or law enforcement contexts.
  • Regulatory issues raised by the deployment of robotics, including in medicine, in the air (drones), and on the roads (autonomous cars).
  • The impact of human enhancement via robot components, and the need for policy, legal and regulatory structures that address these developing technologies and resulting ethical and social issues.
  • The impact of artificial intelligence on civil liberties, including sexuality, equal protection, privacy, suffrage, and procreation. Standardization issues, especially as they relate to issues arising from related disciplines such as ethics, psychology, or law.

These are only examples of relevant topics. We are very interested in papers on all topics driven by actual or probable robot deployments. The purpose of this conference is to drive 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.

How to Submit Your Proposal for a paper. Please send a 1-3 page abstract outlining your proposed paper, and a C.V. of the author(s) via the conferencing system at https://cmt.research.microsoft.com/ROBOT2016/. Please do NOT put any author identifying information on the proposal itself, as we have moved to a system of anonymous reviews this year. Please be sure to choose the “paper” track for your upload. Submissions open October 1 and are due by November 1, 2015.

2. Discussants. We also invite expressions of interest from potential discussants. At We Robot, authors do not present their own papers. Every paper accepted will be assigned a discussant whose job it will be to present and comment. These presentations are very brief (no more than 10 minutes) but they are a critical part of the conference. Authors will then respond briefly (no more than 5 minutes). The rest of the session will consist of a group discussion about the paper moderated by the discussant.

How to indicate your willingness to be a discussant. Please send a short note telling us why you are interested and your C.V. via the conferencing system at https://cmt.research.microsoft.com/ROBOT2016/. Please be sure to choose the “discussant” track for your upload. Submissions open October 1 and are due by November 1, 2015.

3. 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 as well, or legal and policy issues you have encountered in the design or deploy process. Bring your robot if you can!

How to pitch a demo. Please send description of what you have or are doing, with links to any relevant photos or audio visual information, as well as your C.V., via the We Robot 2016 online conferencing system at https://cmt.research.microsoft.com/ROBOT2016/. Please be sure to choose the “Demo” track for your upload. Please include a brief description of what facilities and resources your demonstration might require (e.g., power, internet connection, space). Submissions open October 1 and are due by November 1, 2015.

4. Poster Session. We Robot will have our first-ever poster session this year in order to accommodate late-breaking and cutting edge projects. This session is ideal for researchers to get feedback on a work in progress. At least one of the authors of each accepted poster should plan to be present at the poster during the entire poster session on the afternoon of April 1, 2016 and for a “lightning round” of one-minute presentations during the main session. We believe this Late Breaking Results Poster Session will be a great addition to We Robot and we strongly encourage you to submit your interesting new work to this session.

How to propose a poster session. Please send an up to 400 word description of what you have or are doing, with links to any relevant photos or audio visual information, as well as your C.V. via the conferencing system at https://cmt.research.microsoft.com/ROBOT2016/. Please be sure to choose the “Posters” track for your upload. Submissions open January 15, 2016 and are due by March 8, 2016. We’ll accept poster proposals on a rolling basis. Remember, at least one author of an accepted poster must register at the conference to submit the final version.

5. Special Workshop Sessions. On March 31, We Robot will host four workshops designed by experts to help people from other disciplines get up to speed in their specialty. We hope these workshops will be attended by people who want to learn about the topics, and by people willing to share their expertise with both experts and neophytes.

  • Juris Machina: Legal Aspects of Robotics, organized by Woody Hartzog
  • Electronic Love, Trust, & Abuse: Social Aspects of Robotics, organized by Kate Darling
  • “The Robot Revolution has been Rescheduled (until we can debug the sensors)”: Technical Aspects of Robotics, organized by Bill Smart
  • Funding the Future: Financial Aspects of Robotics, organized by Dan Siciliano

How to participate in a workshop. All that is required is to sign up when registration opens October 1, 2015, and before it closes in late March 2016. The sessions will be held consecutively, so you can attend one or all.

Deadlines

As noted above, proposals for papers, discussants, and demos will be accepted at https://cmt.research.microsoft.com/ROBOT2016/ starting October 1, 2015 and are due by November 1, 2015. See http://robots.law.miami.edu/2016 for further information. We anticipate having responses by December 4, 2015. Full papers will due by March 1, 2016. Authors retain full copyright but they grant us permission to post the paper on line at the conference web site and to distribute copies.

Proposals for the poster session open January 15, 2016 and are due by March 8, 2016.

Registration for We Robot 2016 will open October 1, 2015. Look for the early bird registration rate.

Funding for Participants

We anticipate paying reasonable round-trip domestic coach airfare and providing up to two nights hotel accommodation for one presenter per paper and demo, and also for discussants. For speakers based outside North America we will provide up to $750 towards the cost of your international airfare, plus we will provide two nights hotel accommodation. We are seeking funding sources to contribute to the expenses of poster session presenters, and to provide scholarships for graduate students, so please watch our web page for more information.

WeRobot2016-Call_for_papers.

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Save the Dates: April 1 & 2, 2016 (and maybe March 31st too!)

We Robot 2016 will be held at the University of Miami on April 1st and 2d, 2016. Additional Information on We Robot 2016, including a Call for Papers will be coming soon.

Watch this space for announcements regarding special pre-We-Robot workshops on March 31st!!!

Past Conferences:

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