Tuesday, April 11, 2017


We Robot Conference Discusses Intersection of Tech and Law

On March 31 and April 1, Yale Law School hosted the sixth annual robotics law and policy conference—WeRobot 2017. Organized by Kate Klonick (Ph.D. candidate and resident fellow at ISP), the conference brought together more than 200 people to discuss the future of robots, artificial intelligence, algorithms, and the law. We Robot fosters conversations between the people designing, building, and deploying robots and those who design or influence the legal and social structures in which these robots will operate. The conference combined scholarly contributions by academics and practitioners and technological demonstrations.

Jack Balkin, Knight Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment and director of the Information Society Project, gave opening remarks about how we are moving towards an algorithmic society, where the most important decisions are made by automatic processes. In this society, regulating how people interact through those processes becomes crucial, said Balkin, while we hope that our algorithmic overlords are understanding.

In the opening panel, participants discussed how automatic enforcement changes the nature of a sport (answer: it creates a new expectation of how to play the game). The debate then shifted to the role of explanations, the effect of artificial intelligence in labor, and trade secrets. Two “lightning round” panels evaluated the relationship between robots and the criminal justice system and the intersection between robotics and society.

The second day started with a feminist perspective on drone regulation, before moving to a set of lessons from cognitive engineering to the law, autonomous weapons, and nudging robots. Another “lightning round” panel discussed the private and public law answers to artificial intelligence.

The conference built on the growing body of scholarship exploring the increasing sophistication and autonomous decision-making capabilities of robots and their widespread deployment and how this can disrupt existing legal regimes and policy.