Kate Darling: The Human-Robot Dynamic and the Power of AI
- Leading robotics expert known for her groundbreaking research in the field of robotics ethics
- Recognized as one of the “biggest names in science” by NBC News and one of the “25 Women in Robotics You Need to Know About” by Robohub
- Shares incredible insights on human-robot interaction, robot ethics, and the ways robots will impact society in the near-term future
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A leading expert in robot ethics, Dr. Kate Darling is a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and also heads the Boston Dynamics AI Institute’s study of ethics and societal impact, where she oversees a team of researchers who explore key societal questions related to the development of intelligent robots.
Exclusively represented by Leading Authorities speakers bureau, she explores the emotional connection between people and life-like machines, seeking to influence technology design and policy direction. Dr. Darling’s writing and research anticipate difficult questions that lawmakers, engineers, and the wider public will need to address as human-robot relationships evolve in the coming decades.
Forever interested in how technology intersects with society, she has a background in law and economics as well as intellectual property. Dr. Darling has researched economic incentives in copyright and patent systems and has taken a role as intellectual property expert at multiple academic and private institutions. Named one of the “Women in Robotics You Need to Know About” by Robohub, she has been a contributing writer to BBC Science Focus, Robohub, and IEEE Spectrum. She is also the author of the book The New Breed: What Our History with Animals Reveals About Our Future with Robots, exploring how building diverse relationships with robots could be the key to making our future with robotic technology work.
Her passion for technology and robots has led her to interdisciplinary fields. After co-teaching a robot ethics course at Harvard Law School with Professor Lawrence Lessig, she increasingly works at the intersection of law and robotics, with a focus on legal and social issues. Dr. Darling is a former Fellow at the Harvard Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society and the Yale Information Society Project, and is also an affiliate at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.
Dr. Darling’s work has been featured in Vogue, The New Yorker, The Guardian, BBC, NPR, PBS, The Boston Globe, Forbes, CBC, WIRED magazine, Boston Magazine, The Atlantic, Slate, Die Zeit, The Japan Times, and many more major publications and outlets. She is a contributing writer to Robohub and IEEE Spectrum and 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.
Dr. Darling graduated from law school with honors and holds a Doctor of Sciences from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) and an honorary doctorate of sciences from Middlebury College. In 2017, the American Bar Association honored her legal work with the Mark T. Banner award in Intellectual Property. She was also recognized in 2017 as a “Radar Thinker” by Thinkers50. She is the caretaker for several domestic robots, including her Pleos Yochai, Peter, and Mr. Spaghetti.
The Future of Human-Robot Interaction. The robots are coming and they’re getting smarter, evolving from single-task devices (think Roomba) into machines that can make their own decisions and autonomously navigate public spaces. From transportation systems, hospitals, and the military, to the robotization of our workplaces and households, robots will be everywhere and will increasingly interact with people.
Whether you find it exhilarating or terrifying (or both), progress in robotics and related fields like AI raises new ethical quandaries and challenges legal codes created for a world in which a sharp line separates man from machine.
Drawing from her recent work exploring humans’ emotional responses to robots, Dr. Kate Darling answers questions like:
- What happens when robots move from behind factory walls into shared spaces and begin interacting with humans?
- What opportunities and challenges should we anticipate in the future of human-robot interaction?
- Where does the true potential of AI and robotics lie, and will robots supplement human ability, or replace it?
- Why do people treat robots like living things, and why does that matter?
- What can and can’t robots and AI do?
- What societal challenges will we face in a future with robots (ethical, legal, and social)?
Dr. Darling examines why people fear some robots and empathize with others, while also prompting—and answering—questions about what society’s relationship with these robots could look like in the future. What follows is in part an examination of the technology itself, but ultimately, offers a window into how it’s poised to change the way we relate to each other and our own humanity—and why it matters.
Kate Darling, robot expert: ‘We shouldn’t laugh at people who fall in love with a machine. It’s going to be all of us’
Thank you for your help in orchestrating Kate's talk. We really enjoyed working with her, and her presentation was very well received by the audience. We felt that she really connected with them. I really appreciated how self-sufficient she was as a speaker. I really only have great things to say about our experience working with Kate and would absolutely recommend her to others.
Wow, there was so much here to think about. I didn't realize people were so empathic to robots. Fascinating presentation. She emphasized again that is ultimately the programmer (us) who determines things. She shared interesting thoughts on AI and therapy as well.
Kate Darling was a smash hit. She was absolutely delightful. I would highly recommend her, and I would book her again in a heartbeat. Her talk is fascinating and the follow-up conversation with our CEO was terrific!
It was a fantastic talk. What we appreciated most about Kate is her ability to explain complex ideas in a very interesting, dynamic way through visuals, video and robot props. She has a refreshingly grounded, optimistic perspective on the future of human/machine interaction. She obviously loves her work and that excitement was contagious - participants walked away inspired and energized.
With her unique blend of warmth, humor, and the presence of a delightful baby dino robot, Dr. Darling brought the topic to life in a way that truly engaged the audience. Dr. Darling's in-depth understanding of human behavior and her ability to convey complex ideas in a relatable and accessible manner shed light on the underlying factors that contribute to our fears and empathetic responses towards robots.
Moreover, Dr. Darling skillfully highlighted the positive potential that AI holds for consumers when harnessed responsibly and ethically. Her insights into utilizing AI for the betterment of society give a welcome sense of optimism about the future of AI integration. I highly recommend attending her future talks.