592.01 Frontier AI & Robotics: Law & Ethics

Robots, with us for several generations already, were long confined to narrow uses and trained users, assembling our vehicles and moving our products behind the scenes. In recent years, robotic tools have begun to step out of the back room and take center stage. Even more, these tools are fueled by constantly advancing artificial intelligence and machine learning tools that allow them to participate in the world of the mind as much as the world of muscle. Are we ready? Probably not. Surely our legal systems and ethical frameworks must evolve. We must find ways to ensure that human-robot interactions occur in ways that are safe and are consistent with our cultural values. We must take care that our policies and laws provide artificial intelligence tools with the direction we need without quashing or hindering the innovations that could improve our lives.

The course will bring together three core areas: (1) law, (2) ethics/science policy, and (3) applied technology/science

Because frontier technologies challenge existing legal regimes and ethical frameworks, this course encourages law and ethics students to interact with technologists who are actively developing these new, disruptive technologies. In this case, students may shadow roboticists at Pratt's robotics labs (primarily the Humans and Autonomy Lab—HAL) or hear from leaders of local drone or BCI (brain-computer interface) companies.

Beyond time spent with technologists, time spent for class preparation, and in-class time, each student in Frontier AI & Robotics: Law & Ethics will be required to complete a substantial research-based writing piece that adds to current legal/policy discourse. While outputs for such writing will depend on each student's area of focus and the outlets where his or her research can have the most influence, there are several outlets that students are most likely to employ, including the Robotics track of http://sciencepolicy.duke.edu/, where students will comment on legislative proposals, offer white papers, build research repositories, etc.


Spring 2018

Course NumberCourse CreditsEvaluation MethodInstructorMeeting Day/TimesRoom
Reflection Papers
Final paper (10+ pages in length)
In-class exercise
Class participation
Jeff Ward
2:00-4:45 PM
Degree Requirements
Course Areas of Practice