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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Benjamin, I just want to say one word to you -- 'robotics'

Of course, it was hard to get the phrasing from "The Graduate" just right in a post title, but there it is. A recent article in the New York Times suggests that robotics may hold great promise. Here's an edited excerpt:

Two people who are virtually paralyzed from the neck down have learned to manipulate a robotic arm with just their thoughts, using it to reach out and grab objects. ... The report, released online by the journal Nature, is the first published demonstration that humans with severe brain injuries can effectively control a prosthetic arm, using tiny brain implants that transmit neural signals to a computer. ... The two people in this study, a 58-year-old woman and a 66-year-old man, are quadriplegic, unable to use their limbs as a result of strokes years ago. ... With a little training, the two participants took control of the arm. It was the first time the man had used a limb of any kind in three years, and the first time in 15 years for the woman. Both were able to move the robotic arm and hand skillfully enough to pick up foam objects.

We've seen television and movies detailing what this might look like - all the way from The Six Million Dollar Man to promises of advanced robots (I'm sorry, "Androids") on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Battlestar Galactica, and The Terminator movies and TV series. The article is somewhat cautious as to future of robotics as an industry, but I imagine that much like calculators in the 1970s, the price prohibitiveness will diminish as the phenomenon takes hold. Of course this brings to mind a myriad of political, social and legal issues (some dealt with in BSG's ill-fated spinoff Caprica). I touched on a pretty basic one - criminal liability concerning Brain Computer Interfaces (BCIs) - here. But I'm wondering - what are the primary legal issues that rapid development in the field of robotics and artificial intelligence might present?




Posted by Dingo_Pug on May 16, 2012 at 05:02 PM | Permalink


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Thanks Paul, that looks really interesting - I'll certainly check it out. Apparently our post here made it into "Robotics Today"- which I didnt even know existed until now :-)


Posted by: Jeff Yates | May 17, 2012 3:25:51 PM

Michael Froomkin just hosted an entire conference trying to suggest answers to your question, and it's all available online. http://robots.law.miami.edu/

Posted by: Paul Ohm | May 16, 2012 5:07:32 PM

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