4

We Robot 2012 Conference at UM Plans for Violent Machine Uprising

^
Keep New Times Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Miami and help keep the future of New Times free.

The year: a not-too-distant future. The place: a dark Miami-Dade alley. The crime: A police robot, built and programmed to recognize wanted criminals, mistakes an innocent teenager for a fugitive. As the teen flees in terror, the machine shoots to kill.

Who's responsible? The cops who deployed the killer device? The company that built it? The programmers who messed up the facial-recognition software?

It might sound like the plot of a third-rate Isaac Asimov knockoff, but to University of Miami law professor A. Michael Froomkin, the prospect of killer robots terrorizing society is all too real. Froomkin is so worried, in fact, he has organized a world-class group of robot experts to descend on Coral Gables this week to answer some terrifying questions. (Such as this one, straight from the We Robot 2012 brochure: "When is killing by a robot a war crime?")

Info

We Robot 2012 Conference

"Robotics today is like the Internet was 25 years ago," Froomkin says. "The difference is that robots can hurt people directly."

Froomkin, a Cambridge- and Yale-educated attorney who favors bow ties, has been at the cutting edge of Internet law. The problem with the web then and robotics today, he says, is that engineers are blind to problems that can happen when their inventions hit the real world. Just as the Internet has jumbled copyright law, robots will drastically reshape society within a few decades, he says.

Example: Scientists create a mechanical leg for war vets that's powered by thought alone. War vet talks to a really annoying person. Vet thinks, This guy needs a foot up his ass. Suddenly, the leg kicks the guy in the balls.

"Who's to blame?" Froomkin asks. "Right now, we have no legal framework for that situation."

As the Obama administration announces national robotics initiatives, and police forces — including Miami-Dade's — adopt unmanned aerial drones, it's not difficult to imagine robots infiltrating society, from the hospital to the jailhouse. Froomkin's conference brings together experts from around the globe to tackle panels such as "Sex Robots and the Roboticization of Consent" and "Confronting Automated Law Enforcement."

"We aren't going to emerge with any answers. It's far too early for that," Froomkin says. "But hopefully we can get a broad spectrum of the community to at least think about these questions."

Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

 

Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Miami.

 

Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Miami.