Conference Highlights

Panel: Ethics in AI - Impacts of (Anti?) Social Robotics - VIC Summit 2019

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Robotics is going to change the world – at least that is what we hear, see and read daily in the news. So-called “Social Robots” – robots directly interacting with humans and supporting them at work, in shops, in their homes or even in hospitals and homes for the elderly – will have a particular impact on how we perceive robotic help in our lives and if we consider it something useful or dehumanizing.

In this session sponsored by IEEE TechEthics, a panel of experts at the IEEE Vision, Innovation and Challenges Summit considers whether this sub-domain of service robotics will more likely be regarded as an element bringing people closer together (e.g. bridging communication gaps and re-enabling people with physical challenges to participate in daily life), or if it will have anti-social effects, separating us even further from each other and locking people into a dystopic bubble of digitalized content and automated living spaces.

“Chorebot” courtesy of Greg Omelchuck.

About the Panelists:

Dominik Boesl (moderator) joined FESTO AG in January 2019 as Vice President & Head of Robotic Futures. Directly reporting to the CTO, he leads FESTO’s robotics business unit and defines its automation strategy. Prior to this position, he had been responsible for Innovation and Technology Management at KUKA since joining KUKA Laboratories as Head of Corporate Strategy, and Member of the Board in 2011. In 2012, he became Corporate Innovation Manager at KUKA AG, directly reporting to the Management Board. From January 2017 to December 2018 he acted as Vice President Consumer Driven Robotics and Senior Corporate Innovation Manager. His responsibility for innovation and evangelism efforts spanned the entire KUKA group. As one of KUKA’s Technical Fellows, he defined KUKA’s digitalization, IoT and Industrie 4.0 strategy. In order to foster the interdisciplinary discourse about the impact of robotics and automation on society and humankind, Dominik is leading efforts in “Robotic & AI Governance,” working on establishing a framework for voluntary self-regulation regarding the use of disruptive technologies. Dominik graduated with a diploma in Computer Science from the University of Augsburg and a joint MBA degree from the University of Pittsburgh. In addition to his career, he lectures at various universities and has authored technical and scientific publications. At IEEE, he currently acts as Chair of the IEEE TechEthics Ad-Hoc Committee, and as Vice President for Industrial Activities of the Robotics and Automation Society.

Ayanna Howard, Ph.D. is the Linda J. and Mark C. Smith Professor and Chair of the School of Interactive Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She is also the Chief Technology Officer of Zyrobotics. Dr. Howard’s career focus is on intelligent technologies that must adapt to and function within a human-centered world. Her work, which encompasses advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), assistive technologies, and robotics, has resulted in over 250 peer-reviewed publications in a number of projects – from healthcare robots in the home to AI-powered STEM apps for children with diverse learning needs. To date, her unique accomplishments have been highlighted through a number of awards and articles, including highlights in USA Today, Upscale, and TIME Magazine, as well as being recognized as one of the 23 most powerful women engineers in the world by Business Insider and one of the Top 50 U.S. Women in Tech by Forbes. In 2013, she also founded Zyrobotics, which is currently licensing technology derived from her research and has released their first suite of STEM educational products to engage children of all abilities. Prior to Georgia Tech, Dr. Howard was a senior robotics researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She also holds a faculty appointment in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Kevin McGowan is an Associate Partner for McKinsey & Co. in its Cleveland office. He is a leader in McKinsey’s Global Energy & Materials (GEM) Practice. He primarily serves clients in Chemicals (Commodity and Specialty), Materials, Energy, and Agriculture. He supports clients with complex functional excellence transformations across commercial, supply chain and operations. Recently, he has been focusing on the role of Industry 4.0 (digital, advanced analytics and automation) on asset/network and labor productivity in the Chemicals Industry. Kevin holds a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Florida, an MBA from Duke University and a BS in Chemistry from Duke University.

Kate Vredenburgh is a Ph.D. candidate in philosophy at Harvard University. Her work and teaching examine political and ethical questions around emerging technologies, such as questions around transparency and explainability. In the fall, she will take up a one-year postdoctoral fellowship at the McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society at Stanford University, before joining the London School of Economics as an Assistant Professor in 2020.

Recorded on 17 May 2019 as part of the IEEE Vision, Innovation, and Challenges Summit.