By Suzie Dunn

WeRobot is an annual interdisciplinary conference focused on legal and policy issues related to robotics and artificial intelligence. The inaugural WeRobot conference was hosted at the University of Miami School of Law in April 2012 and the newest iteration of the conference will be hosted at the University of Ottawa in 2020. In the past, the conference has rotated between universities in the east and west side of the United States and has been hosted at prestigious institutions such as Yale and Stanford. WeRobot 2020 will be the first time this leading conference in AI and robotics will be hosted at a faculty in Canada.

The format of the conference typically consists of one day of introductory workshops where topics such as artificial intelligence and legal terminology are explored and explained to participants. The following two days consist of panels where a discussant reviews a work in progress by another author, followed by comments and questions from the conference participants. Previous WeRobot conferences included discussants and authors including world renowned technology scholars including University of Ottawa’s own Ian Kerr, Canada Chair Ethics, Law and Technology, and Jason Millar, as well as Kate Darling, Kristen Thomasen, Michael Froomkin, and Ryan Calo.

While the focus of the conference is on law and policy generally, issues such as how these new technologies impact equality regularly arise at the conference. In 2019, the first day of workshops included workshops such as “Don’t Look at Me Like That: The Latest Developments in Social Science/Philosophy for Robotic and AI” where Madeleine Elish, Kate Darling, and Ari Waldman discussed who is invisible in the research and production of AI and robots, what role technology research has in advocacy, and the use of robots in working with autistic children. In “We’re Not Gonna Take I.T.: Advocacy in Robotics and AI” Jay Stanley, Kevin Bankston, Katerine Pratt and Lucas Hernández discussed equality issues including racial discrimination by social media companies, and image-based classifications. Several of the 2019 papers commented on equality issues such as bias in facial recognition technology, bias in predictive policing, and the gendered impacts of AI decision making. Discussants and conference participants also raised issues such as the need to consider equality seeking groups, non-western perspectives, and colonialism in the research. For example, discussant University of Windsor Professor in Law, Robotics and Society, Kristen Thomasen, tied the use of corporate automated delivery vehicles in public spaces to settler and colonial perspectives on land use when reviewing Mason Marks’ “Robots in Space: Sharing Our World with Autonomous Delivery Vehicles”.

WeRobot 2020 will be hosted by the University of Ottawa’s Centre for Law, Technology, and Society (CLTS) from April 2nd to 4th. As a member of the CLTS, The eQuality Project looks forward to the rich discussions on the intersection of law, policy, equality, and technology that will happen at our faculty. See you there in 2020!

Explore previous WeRobot conferences and papers here:

1st 2012:
2nd 2013:
3rd 2014:
4th 2015:
5th 2016:
6th 2017:
7th 2018:
8th 2019: