A robot is an artificially intelligent machine that can sense, think, and act in the world.  Its physical, embodied aspect sets a robot apart from other artificially intelligent systems, and it also profoundly affects the way that people interact with robots.  Although a robot is an autonomous, engineered machine, its appearance and behavior can trigger anthropomorphic impulses in people who work with it.  In many ways, robots occupy a niche that is somewhere between man and machine, which can lead people to form unhealthy emotional attitudes towards them.  We can develop unidirectional emotional bonds with robots, and there are indications that robots occupy a distinct moral status from humans, leading us to treat them without the same dignity afforded to a human being.  Are emotional relationships with robots inevitable?  How will they influence human behavior, given that robots do not reciprocate as humans would?  This talk will examine issues such as cruelty to robots, sex robots, and robots used for sales, guard or military duties.

Ross A. Knepper is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science at Cornell University whose research focuses on the theory, algorithms, and mechanisms of automated assembly. Ross is the recipient of a Young Investigator Award from AFOSR, and he received the Best Paper award at the Robotics: Science and Systems conference in 2014. Previously, Ross was a Research Scientist in the Distributed Robotics Lab at MIT. Ross received his M.S and Ph.D. degrees in Robotics from Carnegie Mellon University in 2007 and 2011. Before his graduate education, Ross worked in industry at Compaq, where he designed high-performance algorithms for scalable multiprocessor systems; and also in commercialization at the National Robotics Engineering Center, where he adapted robotics technologies for customers in government and industry.