What’s Wrong with My Robot? Unlearning Biases in Robot Design

Kasper Stoy1, Cathrine Hasse2, Patricia Treusch3, Kathleen Richardson4, Morten Roed Frederiksen5, Ben Vermeulen6, Karolina Zawieska7

  • 1IT University of Copenhagen
  • 2Program for Future Technology, Culture and Learning
  • 3TU Berlin
  • 4De Montfort University
  • 5IT-University of Copenhagen
  • 6University of Hohenheim
  • 7SMARTlab, University College Dublin

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Human-centered and ethical robotics is increasingly important to policymakers, to regulators, in the media, and to consumers – and should be taken up by roboticists accordingly. As robots begin to move out of industrial areas and into people’s everyday lives, robot developers increasingly acknowledge a need to adjust their design practices. As noted in our ongoing projects, however, roboticists often struggle to identify and engage with the ethical challenges in their development processes. One reason for this is the lack of existing tools for translating theoretical discussions of ethics into actionable design practices. While roboticists engage in design every day, discussions of ethics have usually fallen under the purview of the humanities and social sciences (SSH). Thus, there is a great potential for interdisciplinary collaboration, a potential we try to address with this workshop. Our workshop aims at providing a prototype of a tool, which can facilitate a more reflective design process capable of addressing arising ethical concerns. In particular, we explore, together with participants, tacit assumptions of developers and the impact of these on design in relation to ethics and gender. Furthermore, we will co-investigate design strategies to unearth unexplored technical opportunities for strengthening human and robot communication. The workshop is structured into four sessions, which merge conceptual and practical aspects of translating ethics into values and incorporating them into design. The event is structured into four synergetic sessions, involving practical design activities, discussions, and co-production of a prototype reflection tool. The introductory panel will deliver insights into the relation of ethics and values in design processes, tailored to the attending audience, and presented via an innovative browser-based choose-your-own-adventure puzzle game. Together, we will form a shared vocabulary for our subsequent discussions. In the second and third sessions, the participants will collaborate in smaller groups to produce a physical model of a robot design in two iterations, which they will present to the group in plenary. They will put the shared vocabulary into practice by reflecting on their own design choices with special attention to gendered decisions as a taken-for-granted (guided by invited speakers whose research centers on these issues). Thus, we will engage the participants in the challenge of making design decisions and at the same time encourage them to engage in reflection activities. In session four, the synergetic closing group discussion, we will co-develop a (prototype) practical reflection tool that will later be refined and disseminated to the participants, as well as a larger audience, with the shared vocabulary produced in session one and a systematized summary of the entire workshop.

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