Against robot dystopias

Thinking through the ethical, legal and societal issues of robotics and automation (AGAINST-20)

Full-day workshop at ICRA 2020

June 4th 2020


The mission of this workshop is twofold:
1. To identify ethical, legal and societal issues within robotics and automation.
2. To introduce and discuss technical methods for addressing these issues.

Workshop overview:

Session 1: Principles for ethical robotics
Session 2: Methods for ethical robotics
Session 3: Privacy issues and methods
Session 4: Societal impact


Intelligent robots come with promises of great value to society but can also be seen as threats in terms of job loss, increased social inequalities, transparency and privacy, age/race/gender bias in training or design, autonomous warfare, excessive delegation of decision-making, etc. This workshop aims to put forth a diversity of viewpoints from experts not only in robotics and AI but also disciplines that are close to the real-world use of robots: economics, social science, gender studies, and philosophy. Together we want to explore possible outcomes of increased uptake of intelligent robots, and contribute to ethical frameworks and good practices.

Attention to ethical issues in robotics in general, from transparency to privacy, jobs, discrimination and others, has been missing from large robotics conferences such as ICRA and IROS. The robotics community has been lagging behind on the discussion of these concerns. In this workshop we will, with the help of a multidisciplinary cast of invited speakers, think through some of the most important ethical issues and start a dialogue between technical researchers and philosophers, economists and social scientists. We will do this explicitly right from the organization of the workshop, which will consist of interleaved blocks of technical and issue-raising talks.


The workshop will be hosted at the 2020 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA 2020).
Location: Palais des congrès de Paris, Paris, France.
Room: 364

Call For Abstracts

We welcome the submission of extended abstracts (max 2 pages) related to the workshop's topics of interest. Both unpublished original contributions and previously published work may be submitted. We specifically encourage submission of position papers that address the ethical issues involved in robot design, deployment and use; as well as the techniques which will be required to avoid or alleviate these issues. These papers will be used to initiate discussion on the topics during the workshop, and will be presented both as short oral presentations and posters.

We accept various kinds of papers:
1) Discussion papers (discussing an ethical/societal/legal issue related to automation and robotics)
2) Method papers (introducing a technical method to address or to account for an ethical concern)
3) User study papers (investigating user perceptions or interactions with a system)
4) New: Dystopia papers*

*Dystopia papers are provocative papers that explicitly discuss how science fiction dystopias from a book, movie or TV series (e.g. Black Mirror) could take place and avoided in practice. The authors should pick one such story and discuss what kind of methods, research, and/or societal and legal interventions need to come about to avoid such a scenario. These should still be high-quality academic contributions, however with a different touch to its motivation and storyline. Inspired by the Recoding Black Mirror Workshop.

Topics of interest

- Fairness in robotics and automation
- Accountability in robotics and automation
- Transparency in robotics and automation
- Explainability in robotics and automation
- Privacy in robotics and automation
- Ethics of robotics and automation
- Law for robotics and automation
- Economy of robotics and automation
- Governance of robotics and automation

Important Dates

- Paper submission deadline: March 23, 2020
- Author notification: April 19, 2020
- Camera-ready submission: May 4, 2020
- May 31 or June 4, 2020

Submission instructions

The manuscripts should use the IEEE ICRA two-column format, maximum 2 pages, and a PDF copy of the manuscript should be submitted through the dedicated EasyChair website.

Accepted contributions will be presented both as short oral presentations and as posters. The presentation should be up to 3-minutes to highlight the key findings of their research and identify their poster to the audience. The papers will be posted on this website unless otherwise requested by the authors.


  • Alan Winfield

    9h00 - 9h30

    Ethical robotics

    Alan Winfield www

  • AJung Moon

    9h30 - 10h00

    Ethical human-robot interaction

    AJung Moon www

  • Andreas Theodorou

    10h00 - 10h30

    Glass is the new black: Going Beyond High-Level Guidelines

    Andreas Theodorou www

  • Anca Dracan

    11h00 - 11h30

    Value alignment in robotics

    Anca Dracan www

  • Daniele Magazzeni

    11h30 - 12h00

    Methods for explainable robotics

    Daniele Magazzeni www

  • Tathagata Chakraborti

    12h00 - 12h30

    404. Expected plan not found.

    Tathagata Chakraborti www

  • Christoph Lutz

    13h30 - 14h00

    Privacy issues in robotics

    Christoph Lutz www

  • William Smart

    14h00 - 14h30

    Methods for privacy-aware robotics

    William Smart www

  • Hin-Yan Liu

    14h30 - 15h00

    Discrimination issues in robotics

    Hin-Yan Liu www

  • Ludovic Righetti

    15h00 - 15h30

    Dual use issues in robotics

    Ludovic Righetti w

  • Dag Balkmar

    16h00 - 16h30

    Masculinity and autonomous vehicles

    Dag Balkmar www

  • Hildegunn Kyvik Nordås

    16h30 - 17h00

    Labour market effects of artificial intelligence

    Hildegunn Kyvik Nordås www


Session 1: Principles for ethical robotics
8h45 - 9:00 Opening (organizers)
9h00 - 9h30 Alan Winfield Alan Winfield University of West of England "Ethical robotics"
9h30 - 10h00 AJung Moon AJung Moon McGill University "Ethical human-robot interaction"
10h00 - 10h30 Andreas Theodorou Andreas Theodorou Umea University "Glass is the new black: Going Beyond High-Level Guidelines"
10h30 - 11h00 Coffee break and poster session
Session 2: Methods for ethical robotics
11h00 - 11h30 Anca Dracan Anca Dracan University of California Berkeley "Value alignment in robotics"
11h30 - 12h00 Daniele Magazzeni Daniele Magazzeni King's College London "Methods for explainable robotics"
12h00 - 12h30 Tathagata Chakraborti Tathagata Chakraborti IBM "404. Expected plan not found."
12h30 - 13h30 Lunch
Session 3: Privacy
13h30 - 14h00 Christoph Lutz Christoph Lutz Norwegian Business School "Privacy issues in robotics"
14h00 - 14h30 William Smart William Smart Oregon State University "Methods for privacy-aware robotics"
Session 4: Societal impact
14h30 - 15h00 Hin-Yan Liu Hin-Yan Liu University of Copenhagen "Discrimination issues in robotics"
15h00 - 15h30 Ludovic Righetti Ludovic Righetti University of New York "Dual use issues in robotics"
15h30 - 16h00 Coffee break and poster session
16h00 - 16h30 Dag Balkmar Dag Balkmar Orebro University "Masculinity and autonomous vehicles"
16h30 - 17h00 Hildegunn Kyvik Nordås Hildegunn Kyvik Nordås NUPI "Labour market effects of artificial intelligence"
17h00 - 17h30 Panel discussion


  • Masoumeh (Iran) Mansouri (Corresponding organizer)

    Masoumeh (Iran) Mansouri (Corresponding organizer) www

    University of Birmingham, UK

  • Martim Brandao

    Martim Brandao www

    King's College London, UK

  • Martin Magnusson

    Martin Magnusson www

    Örebro University, Sweden


This workshop is supported by:

IEEE RAS Technical Committee on Human-Robot Interaction & Coordination


This space serves as a resource for related initiatives and readings. It is curated by the organizers and invited speakers.
Please feel free to send any of the organizers an email if you think something should be added to the lists below.

Related initiatives, workshops and conferences

- ICRA 2020 workshop "How will Autonomous Robots and Systems Influence Society? Debate from technological, philosophical, ethical, legal, and social implications perspectives"
- ICRA 2019 workshop "Bias-sensitizing robot behaviours: A quest for Avoiding Harmful Bias and Discrimination by robots (AGAINST-19)"
- IROS 2019 workshop "What's wrong with my robot? Unlearning biases in robot design"
- Web Conference 2019 workshop "Recoding Black Mirror"
- ACM Conference on Fairness Accoutability and Transparency (FAT*)
- ACM Conference on Artificial Intelligence, Ethics, and Society

Related readings

To appear