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Peter Haas  

Associate Director of the Brown University Humanity Centered Robotics Initiative

Peter is the Associate Director of the Brown University Humanity Centered Robotics Initiative, where he investigates the impacts of robotics and AI on society. He was the Co-Founder and COO of XactSense, a UAV manufacturer working on LIDAR mapping and autonomous navigation. Prior to XactSense, Peter founded AIDG – a small hardware enterprise accelerator in emerging markets. Peter received both TED and Echoing Green fellowships. He has been a speaker at TED Global, The World Bank, Harvard University and other venues. He holds a Philosophy B.A. from Yale.

Speech Topics

AI Cybersecurity

AI and Robotics are going to be cybersecurity nightmares. Due hardware and software architecture issues robots are being deployed that have not received the latest patches and will not receive the latest patches. At Brown we recently did the largest port scan of the internet for robots that has ever taken place. What we found is shocking.This will be the SCADA problem 2.0. How can you detect and control for a cyber threat that can not just turn on microphones or cameras, but physically move in a space, control the distribution of chemicals, and possibly cause millions of dollars of damage.

AI Trust

There are reasons we should not trust AI systems to perform complex tasks, and we should consider ways to put into place AI explainability to keep humans in the decision making loop. Even though AI could reduce the cognitive load on people for repetitive tasks it comes with the potential for biases based on data. People should keep a healthy skepticism of AI and companies should do their due diligence on systems before deployment. There is a lot of snake oil out there and a suave vendor could easily sell your company a garbage system that spells trouble and lawsuits down the road.

Demographics and AI

Western countries are entering a demographic shift where large numbers of people in traditionally blue collar jobs will be aging out of the workforce, truck drivers, slaughterhouse workers etc. Many of these jobs are complex tasks that will be difficult to fully automate. There will be room for robotic teleoperation of jobs to perform the work, but also room for higher tech jobs to manage these systems, that are more managerial level. Savvy workers can advance their careers to management with the right domain expertise. To prepare for this they need to start understanding how these systems will be deployed and what new skills they will need to master to be in line for those systems management jobs.

AI Globalization

The barriers and prices on the deployment of robotic and AI solutions are dropping. We are about to enter an age of AI Globalization where material production, physical labor, and intellectual effort can cross borders, time zones and language barriers in ways hitherto only imagined in Science Fiction. Pushed by robotic automation, ubiquitous connectivity and AI agent support we're going to see a dramatic increase in cross border trade using AI and human collaboration. The world is about to get a lot smaller and a lot more flat. We're going to see "call centers for physical labor" pop up, the backup operator for your Uber self driving car could be in Bangladesh, and your fry cook robot controller could be in Nigeria. Your short run digitally designed product could be launched in an automated factory simultaneously in Atlanta and Shenzhen. AI and robotic assistants for your private medical practice in Boston could let you treat 50,000 patients a week, with half of them in Sierra Leone. The question arises what will be the types of education and training needed to preserve jobs in this more automated world, and how can established companies compete.


Humans are on the verge of being outpaced by AI systems. Recently massive changes in processing power have enabled old and previously unsuccessful techniques in AI to flourish resulting in robust systems like Deep Learning. This trend will continue as processing power increases and AI techniques that are stymied now will see realization as useful tools for planning and perception. The result of this will be an acceleration in the pace of production and pace of society.

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