Lee sez, "The next generation of robots will be in homes, offices and hospitals, not to mention driving cars, flying around as drones, and, yes, working as prison wardens. Robots will be programmed to learn, and will exhibit emergent behavior not necessarily contemplated by their designers. What happens when good robots do bad things? Who is responsible? And what ethical and legal constraints should be considered at the design stage so that the robotics industry does not become the next full employment opportunity for lawyers? What kinds of public policies should we put in place to encourage the smart deployment of robots, striking the right balance between encouraging innovation and safety? These are the kinds of questions to be examined at We Robot, "an inaugural conference on law and policy relating to robotics" at the University of Miami School of Law on April 21 & 22, 2012. The We Robot call for papers, and a parallel call for live-from-the-frontlines-of-design reports from robot-makers, is open for initial expressions of interest until Jan. 12, 2012.
Topics of interest for the scholarly paper portion of the conference include but are not limited to:
* Effect of robotics on the workplace, e.g. small businesses, hospitals, and other contexts where robots and humans work side-by-side.
* Regulatory and licensing issues raised by robots in the home, the office, in public spaces (e.g. roads), and in specialized environments such as hospitals.
* Design of legal rules that will strike the right balance between encouraging innovation and safety, particularly in the context of autonomous robots.
* Issues of legal or moral responsibility, e.g. relating to autonomous robots or robots capable of exhibiting emergent behavior.
* Issues relating to robotic prosthetics (e.g. access equity issues, liability for actions activated by conscious or unconscious mental commands).
* Relevant differences between virtual and physical robots.
I'm coming to Zurich next week to do a series of high-school lectures in connection with the German edition of Little Brother, and while I'm in town, I've scheduled a free lecture, organised by local free culture and Creative Commons activists. It's at 8PM on December 6, at the Kunstraum Walcheturm. Hope to see you there!
The Aitkin, Minnesota, Fish House Parade is a post-Thanksgiving tradition. People dress up their snowmobiles, Sno-Cats, and fish houses—portable cabins used for ice fishing—in silly costumes and roll them down Aitkin's Main Street to cheering throngs. It's meant to mark the kick-off of the ice fishing season on Mille Lacs, a particularly large lake in north-central Minnesota. This year, however, the arrival of Thanksgiving has not really coincided with the arrival of thick snow and solid lake ice. It'll be a while yet before any of the fish houses are being used for fishing.
One other oddity brought on by the relatively warm November: If you browse through the photos taken by Minnesota Public Radio's Bob Collins, you'll see that many of fish house floats are towed by snowmobile. But, lacking much snow, the snowmobiles all have little, temporary front wheels attached.
College student bloggers from across the United States are currently competing to win a $10,000 scholarship. You can vote for the winner. And you should consider voting for David Shiffman, one of the ocean science bloggers who writes for Southern Fried Science. If he wins, he has pledged to adopt a satellite-tagged shark in the name of his blog's readers, hold a contest to name said shark, and provide regular blog updates about what the shark is up to. My suggestion: Vote Shiffman, because sharks are awesome.
After years of hearing the Christian right complain about the nonexistent "War on Christmas," the Florida chapter of American Atheists have decided to finally essay a skirmish. They'll be placing bus-ads in Florida this season advertising the fact that millions of Floridians are atheists and inviting atheists to attend their Ft Lauderdale convention Dec 18-19. I'm assuming that religious fundamentalists will oblige them by going crazy and make a huge stink, which'll ensure that the news of the convention is spread far and wide.
"Every year groups like The Catholic League and American Family Association told Americans about a war on Christmas that simply did not exist," American Atheists Communications Director Blair Scott says in the announcement. "Last year we thought we would give them what they seemed to want and fired the first shot in the war on Christmas. To both groups we say, 'Happy Holidays!'"
I'm headed to Philadelphia next week to be the guest of honor at PhilCon (Nov 18-20), and while I'm in the area, I'm giving a free talk at the Wharton School at UPenn (Nov 17, 5PM). On my way home, I'm stopping in DC to give a lunchtime talk at the New America Foundation on Nov 22 (details TBD). Hope to see you there!
The next installment of the always-awesome SF-in-SF reading series features two exceptional writers: Kim Stanley Robinson and Ceclia Holland (check out previous mentions of Robinson here). It's on Sat, Nov 12, doors open at 6PM, event starts at 7, and, as always, the authors will be interviewed by the estimable Terry Bisson. Free, suggested donation $5-10 (benefits Variety Children's Charity). The Variety Preview Room Theatre, 582 Market Street @ 2nd and Montgomery.
Echo Park's much loved Machine Project offers art, classes and civilized mayhem from Experimental Millinery and Bookbinding to Flame Effects (read: giant fireballs) and Sewing 101.
Annually, a month's worth of epic programming is compressed into a single night's party.
At this year's benefit, DMV: After Dark, you will experience such phenomena as: car horn fanfare; competitive sobriety tests; workshops on breaking into and hot-wiring cars, as well as how to escape from a locked trunk, heavy metal polka, surrealistic eye charts, “secret pancakes," and a human vending machine which dispenses delicious food prepared by Donna Coppola of Auntie Em’s Kitchen fame.
The situation will be helped along with a giant bonfire, s'mores and Machine Project beer.
I'm heading to Germany next week for a series of school visits and public appearances to promote the German edition of my novel For the Win. I'm doing public stops in Hamburg (Nov 7, 10AM, Hamburger Kinderbuchhaus im Altonaer Museum), Berlin (8PM, Sankt Oberholz), and Munich (7PM, Lovelybooks, livestream available). Full details at the RandomHouse.de site.
Yesterday, I asked you to submit your physics questions for a chance to win either VIP tickets to see Brian Greene tonight in New York City, or a DVD set of Greene's new NOVA series. I did the drawing this morning and the winners are:
• r matt — You're going to see Brian Greene live tonight in New York!
Both of you need to contact me to claim your prizes. You can reach me by email at maggie (dot) koerth (at) gmail (dot) com.
Remember: Not being chosen as the winner of the drawing doesn't mean your question won't make it into Brian Greene's hand. I'm sending on all the great questions from yesterday's thread to the fine folks at the World Science Festival. Watch the live stream tonight, starting at 10:00 pm Eastern, to see if your question made it!
Image: Dark and ordinary matter in the Universe, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from argonne's photostream
The SciFund challenge runs from November 1 through December 15. Essentially, it's an experiment by a group of scientists who think that they might be able to use crowdfunding to fuel their research. Forty-nine different projects, in a wide variety of disciplines, have signed on to the challenge.
You can browse the projects, decide which ones you'd like to help support, and make a donation. As a bonus, many of the projects are offering nice little gifts for crowdfunders. For instance, if you donate $75 to help researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst study the biology and physics of duck sex, you'll earn a pass code to access a regularly updated research blog, a collection of duck postcards, a "Duck Force!" mug, and a USB flash drive loaded with videos of explosive duck ejaculations that the scientists filmed for their research. (Naturally, this is one of the projects that have currently raised the most money.)