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Dr. Kate Darling    

Leading Expert in Robot Ethics; Researcher, MIT Media Lab; Fellow, Harvard Berkman Center

Robots are taking increasingly bigger roles in life and business – moving well beyond manufacturing and into transportation, education, medicine, care for the elderly, our offices and our homes. But ethics and law haven’t caught up. Dr. Kate Darling, a pioneer in the fields, is helping quicken the pace.

A leading expert in robot ethics, she is a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab where she investigates social robotics and conducts experimental studies on human-robot interaction. Darling explores the emotional connection between people and life-like inventions, seeking to influence technology design and policy direction. Her writing and research anticipate difficult questions that lawmakers, engineers and the wider public must address as human-robot relationships evolve in the coming decades.

While her background is in intellectual property law (She is the winner of the 2017 Mark T. Banner Award from the ABA Section of Intellectual Property Law.) and economics, Darling’s passion for technology and robots led her to interdisciplinary fields. After co-teaching a robot ethics course at Harvard Law School with the renowned Professor Lawrence Lessig, she now increasingly works at the intersection of law and robotics, with a focus on legal and social issues. Darling is a fellow at the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet & Society and the Yale Information Society Project, and is also an affiliate at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.

Darling’s work has been featured in the BBC, The Guardian, The Boston Globe, CBC, WIRED, and more. Named to the Thinkers50 2017 Radar list of up-and-coming management thinkers, she has authored multiple academic publications, and is a contributing writer to Robohub and IEEE Spectrum. A compelling and provocative presenter, she 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. Darling graduated from law school with honors and holds a doctorate of sciences from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich). She is the caretaker for several domestic robots, including her twin Pleos, Yochai and Peter.

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Speech Topics


Robot Ethics and the Future of Human-Robot Interaction

Dr. Kate Darling examines why people fear some robots and empathize with others, while prompting questions about what society’s relationship with robots could look like in the future.

Society and Robot Law: Extending Legal Protection to Social Robots

Dr. Kate Darling explores why we project life-like qualities onto robots and discusses why societies may pass laws protecting robots from violent behavior, which may not be as far-fetched as we think.

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