If my autonomous humanoid robot causes an injury to a guest in my home, am I liable? What if the injury could have been prevented by a firmware update that I willfully chose not to install? Or, what if an amputee, upon receiving a stronger-than-human bionic arm, gets in a fistfight and inadvertently kills his opponent with said robotic arm? Legal minds could explore these situations and many more at the University of Miami Law School’s “We Robot” conference, which will be held in Coral Gables, Florida, on April 21 and 22, 2012.
We seek reports from the front lines of robot design and development, and invite contributions for works-in-progress sessions. In so doing, we hope to encourage 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.
Robotics seems increasingly likely to become a transformative technology. This conference will build on existing scholarship exploring the role of robotics to examine how the increasing sophistication of robots and their widespread deployment everywhere from the home, to hospitals, to public spaces, and even to the battlefield disrupts existing legal regimes or requires rethinking of various policy issues.
People will undoubtedly ask these questions on an increasing basis as robots become a more common part of our lives. We’re on the verge of a day when humans will be living and working with robots designed to operate in human environments, such as homes and offices, as opposed to environments designed for them, like a factory’s manufacturing floor. We’ll also be incorporating robotics into our bodies in ways ranging from bionic limbs and artificial organs to nanobots. When that day comes, and when something inevitably goes wrong, the law will need to address it. This conference is a step in telling us all how it will do so.