Debates on the Future of Robotics Research

Workshop at ICRA (2020) in Paris, France

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Call for Lightning Talks

Can real-world robots be made safe enough to sell to consumers? Are journals obsolete? What are the ethical responsibilities of roboticists in an age of increasing automation? The future of robotics research and practice is up for debate at ICRA 2020.

Debates on the Future of Robotics Research will be a full-day workshop featuring a series of lightning talks and moderated discussions where researchers will present their points of view and debate important questions about the past, present and future of robotics.

Our confirmed speaker list includes:

  • Prof. Hadas Kress-Gazit, Cornell
  • Prof. Sabine Hauert, University of Bristol
  • Prof. AJung Moon, McGill University
  • Prof. Michael Milford, Queensland University of Technology
  • Jen Dawson, Head of Safety at Nuro
  • Prof. Radhika Nagpal, Harvard
  • Prof. Ruzena Bajcsy, Berkeley
  • Dr. Aleksandra Faust, Google Brain Research
  • ..and more to be announced!

The workshop will cover a variety of topics ranging from technical discussions about competing techniques to questions about robotics as a profession and academic discipline, as well as broader issues surrounding the ethical, legal and social impacts of robotics. While these discussions have been taking place at the margins of major technical events like ICRA, our hope is that by bringing them to the mainstage we can foster constructive dialogue across multiple areas of robotics research and practice.

The Debates will feature three moderated debate sessions, with pairs of invited speakers offering opening statements, rebuttals and concluding arguments as they debate a proposition. In addition, there will be a series of Lightning Talks consisting of 3-5 minute presentations about ideas that do not fit readily into the debates. We are seeking 1-2 page extended abstracts or position papers to be presented during the Lightning Talks session, which make an affirmative or negative argument about a salient issue or trend in robotics research. Examples of potential issues include:

Technical Topics

  • "Robotics research is over-reliant on benchmark datasets and simulation, to the detriment of real-world applications."
  • "Robotics is not a science."
  • "Real-world robotic systems are too complicated to ever be able to assure safety."

Academic and Professional Issues

  • "The quality and frequency of robotics conferences has rendered robotics journals obsolete."
  • "Academics should not be permitted to hold simultaneous appointments in academia and industry when supported by public funds."
  • "The established norm of rapid publication in robotics leads to lower research quality."

Ethical, Legal and Social Impacts

  • "Selling robots to consumers has not been successful and never will be."
  • "It is more ethical to focus on human augmentation, rather than total automation."
  • "Roboticists have a direct responsibility for the economic changes brought about by automation, including technological unemployment."

This list is by no means exhaustive and we welcome submissions on topics other than those listed above. Papers may be drawn from previously published or otherwise existing work. Please contact the workshop organizers if you have questions about whether your idea is appropriate for the workshop.

While we welcome submissions from all members of the robotics community, we especially encourage graduate students and early career researchers to take advantage of this opportunity to share their points of view.

CMT Submission System