The Human-centered Artificial Intelligence Colloquium Committee invites you to attend the second October colloquium on 12 October. The talk ‘The Eye of the Robot Beholder: How Roboticists Wield Disciplinary Power’ will be presented by Tom Williams (Colorado School of Mines). After the colloquium, you are warmly invited to join us for drinks.
White supremacist ambitions
Robots are often argued to occupy a unique ontological category in the human mind, somewhere between artifact and person, somewhere between engineering and science fiction. Yet few roboticists acknowledge the way that robots grew to occupy this niche. In this talk, Williams will describe robots’ cultural origination in the white supremacist ambitions of the 19th-century United States.
After laying this groundwork, he will briefly describe several ways that the design and deployment of modern robots continue to reinforce white patriarchal power across multiple domains of power, and the responsibility roboticists bear to subvert these power dynamics. In particular, Williams will focus on the ways that roboticists wield disciplinary power through the ways they do (or do not) enable their robots to see, hear, and categorise the people in their environment.
Tom Williams is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at the Colorado School of Mines, where he directs the Mines Interactive Robotics Research Lab. Prior to joining Mines, he earned a joint PhD in Computer Science and Cognitive Science from Tufts University in 2017.
Williams’s research focuses on enabling and understanding natural language based human-robot interaction that is sensitive to environmental, cognitive, social, and moral context. His work is funded by grants from NSF, ONR, and ARL, as well as by Early Career awards from NSF, NASA, and AFOSR. Williams is currently on sabbatical in Bristol, where he is writing a book for MIT press, one of whose central themes will be summarised in this talk.