The Risks and Benefits of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics


The rise of computing power during the latter half of the twentieth century exponentially increased the ability to develop technologies based on artificial intelligence and capable of autonomous action. Few subjects have caught the public imagination with such force, spawning a plethora of representations in popular culture with varying degrees of realism. However, popular perception of AI is generally bifurcated with advocates seeing the technology as significantly enhancing the quality of human life and detractors concerned about the consequences of bypassing of human instruction and the possibility of machines that have self-learning capabilities evolving in an unanticipated and dangerous manner.

Robotic machines with pre-programmed functions have long been extant, with the manufacturing industry in particular taking advantage of a robot’s ability to perform repetitive tasks with a high degree of accuracy. The introduction of such machinery has made humans increasingly redundant and has required those whose positions have been replaced to re-skill. With the advancement of AI such effects are likely to be magnified.

Creating a system that is capable of independent learning is extremely challenging and requires advanced cognitive function for it to sense its environment, understand what constitutes a successful outcome and compute various series of actions to achieve this outcome. As a result many systems currently still require a degree of human input, rather than demonstrating full autonomy.

The direct implications of advancements in AI in robotics towards autonomy, poses practical and ethical problems with respect to the removal of the human element, notably the ability to exercise ‘judgment’ and ‘discrimination’ and the attribution of responsibility for the actions of such systems. These problems are exacerbated by systems that are capable of ‘bottom up’ learning – the organic development of capability based on experiences, rather than simply delivering pre-programmed responses to specific scenarios.

Together with the pre-eminence of semi-autonomous systems such as Remotely Piloted Aircraft (colloquially known as ‘drones’) these issues have accelerated the debate on how, or indeed whether, some form of regulation or formal guidelines on development should be initiated in order to prevent future systems from having a negative impact on states or citizens.

A clear understanding of robotics and artificial intelligence implications is needed. Without this, the effective and appropriate channeling of future advancements in AI will be even more challenging.

Throughout the two-day workshop, media and security professionals will deepen their understanding of AI and autonomous robotics, their potential applications in day-to-day life and conflict situations, and the challenges that their introduction may pose. Participants will also be engaged in a series of brainstorming sessions and practical exercises with eminent engineers, academics and national-level policy makers.

The workshop is designed to improve knowledge and help frame debates around AI and autonomous robotics. It will provide participants with the opportunity to meet world-class academics and practitioners, expanding their professional network in a select, international environment.

Click here to download the provisional agenda.

Upon full completion of the course the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute will grant a Certificate of Participation.

The following issues will feature during the workshop:

  • Artificial intelligence and robotics 101: what is it and  where are we now?
  • Ethics and artificial intelligence.
  • The cyber-security overlap.
  • The state of robotics and artificial intelligence journalism.
  • Emerging technologies: quantum computing.
  • Economic and social implications of robotics and artificial intelligence.
  • Long term issues of artificial intelligence and the future of humanity robotics.
  • Artificial Intelligence at the United Nations.
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