Dr. Kate Darling
INFORMS Roundtable Sponsored Plenary Speaker
The Future of Human-Robot Interaction
The robots are coming and they’re getting smarter, evolving from single-task devices (think Roomba) into machines that can make their own decisions and autonomously navigate public spaces. From transportation systems, hospitals and the military, to the robotization of our workplaces and households, robots will be everywhere and will increasingly interact with people.
Whether you find it exhilarating or terrifying (or both), progress in robotics and related fields like AI raises new ethical quandaries and challenges legal codes created for a world in which a sharp line separates man from machine.
Drawing from her recent work exploring humans’ emotional responses to robots, Dr. Kate Darling answers questions like:
- What happens when robots move from behind factory walls into shared spaces and begin interacting with humans?
- What opportunities and challenges should we anticipate in the future of human-robot interaction?
- Where does the true potential of AI and robotics lie, and will robots supplement human ability, or replace it?
- Why do people treat robots like living things, and why does that matter?
- What can and can’t robots and AI do?
- What societal challenges will we face in a future with robots (ethical, legal, social)?
Dr. Darling examines why people fear some robots and empathize with others, while also prompting – and answering – questions about what society’s relationship with these robots could look like in the future. What follows is in part an examination of the technology itself, but ultimately, offers a window into how it’s poised to change the way we relate to each other and our own humanity – and why it matters.
About Dr. Kate Darling
A leading expert in robot ethics, Dr. Kate Darling is a research specialist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab, where she investigates social robotics and conducts experimental studies on human-robot interaction. Exclusively represented by Leading Authorities speakers bureau, she explores the emotional connection between people and life-like machines, seeking to influence technology design and policy direction. Dr. Darling’s writing and research anticipate difficult questions that lawmakers, engineers, and the wider public will need to address as human-robot relationships evolve in the coming decades.
Forever interested in how technology intersects with society, she has a background in law and economics as well as intellectual property. Dr. Darling has researched economic incentives in copyright and patent systems and has taken a role as intellectual property expert at multiple academic and private institutions. Named one of the “Women in Robotics You Need to Know About” by Robohub, she currently serves as intellectual property policy advisor to the director of the MIT Media Lab.
Her passion for technology and robots has led her to interdisciplinary fields. After co-teaching a robot ethics course at Harvard Law School with Professor Lawrence Lessig, she increasingly works at the intersection of law and robotics, with a focus on legal and social issues. Kate is a former fellow and current affiliate at the Harvard Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society and a former fellow at the Yale Information Society Project and is also an affiliate at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.
Kate’s work has been featured in Vogue, The New Yorker, The Guardian, BBC, NPR, PBS, The Boston Globe, Forbes, CBC, WIRED magazine, Boston Magazine, The Atlantic, Slate, Die Zeit, The Japan Times, and many more major publications and outlets. She is a contributing writer to Robohub and IEEE Spectrum and speaks and holds workshops covering some of the more interesting developments in the world of robotics, and where we might find ourselves in the future.
Kate graduated from law school with honors and holds a doctorate of sciences from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) and an honorary doctorate of sciences from Middlebury College. In 2017, the American Bar Association honored her legal work with the Mark T. Banner award in Intellectual Property. She was also recognized in 2017 as a “Radar Thinker” by Thinkers50. She is the caretaker for several domestic robots, including her Pleos Yochai, Peter, and Mr. Spaghetti.