Foundation for Responsible Robotics

Organization founded in 2015. Mission: To shape a future of responsible robotics design, development, use, regulation, and implementation. We see both the definition of responsible robotics and the means of achieving it as ongoing tasks that will evolve alongside the technology. Founded by Aimee van Wynsberghe and Noel Sharkey.

FRR is a not-for-profit organization founded on the belief that robots are only as responsible as the humans who build and use them and it is they who are accountable. Our goal is to foster conversation about the human purposes that are implicit in the design of robots to ensure that these human purposes are made as transparent as possible and thus, open for challenge and debate. In robots, we not only project who we are but we come to affect who we will become. These are not just technical matters. They need to be made accessible to the broadest range of citizens and stakeholders. To that end we will:

  • Engage with policy makers at both the international and national level to advocate the creation of new policies that consider potential societal risks of the forthcoming robotics applications. We aim to ensure that societal responsibility and accountability are high on policy agenda and that new regulations are sensitive to responsible innovation.
  • Create multidisciplinary grouping of designers and developers of robotics technology with ethical, legal and societal scholars to foster responsible design and research methods, robot capabilities, delegation of responsibilities, implementation strategies, and policy guidelines.
  • Work together as a group to reflect and explore what it means to be ‘responsible’ in robotics, as the field evolves. There may be some applications that we deem irresponsible by their nature.
  • Organize and hold workshops to help raise awareness about ethical, legal and societal issues in robotics and the various ways in which these issues can best be tackled.
  • Engage with the general public through workshops and events. Raise awareness about responsible robotics through the publication of magazine articles and interviews with radio and television personalities.

What is responsible robotics?
This answer changes as quickly as the technology in question. Robots are tools with no moral intelligence, which means it’s up to us – the humans behind the robots – to be accountable for the ethical developments that necessarily come with technological innovation. Addressing ethical issues in robotics means proactively taking stock of the impact these innovations will have on societal values like safety, security, privacy, and well-being, rather than trying to contain the effects of robots after their introduction into society.

We view responsible robotics as a whole being held up by three central pillars:

1. Research and Development
Responsible robotics starts before the robot has been constructed. Ethical decisionmaking begins in the R&D phase. This includes the kind of research practices that are employed; ensuring that a diverse set of viewpoints are represented in the development of the technology; using methods of development and production that are sustainable; and taking into consideration the impact that the technology will have on all stakeholders to mitigate harm preemptively rather than after the fact.

2. Consumer Education
The ethical use of robotics is not solely the responsibility of the producers of the technology – but for consumers to make informed decisions regarding products they use and how they use them, information about what responsible consumption in the sector looks like has to be readily available. This requires transparency from industry and ensuring ease of access to important information that may affect buyers’ decisions.

3. Law and Policy
Responsible regulation of robots is the final pillar in making use of rapidly advancing technology in an ethical manner. Effective regulation is not aimed at restricting the use of robots, but ensuring that the way they are implemented in society is done with due regard to human rights and does not create or amplify social injustice. It also means facilitating the ethical use of technology through proactive and cross-sector policy, rather than attempting to impose regulations after the technology has been released and put to use.

What We Do

  • Engage with policymakers at both the national and international level to advocate the creation of policies that consider potential societal risks of forthcoming robotics applications.
  • Organize and host events such as workshops that bring together stakeholders from multiple disciplines to increase awareness of ethical, legal, and societal issues in robotics, as well as develop best practices for addressing these issues.
  • Publish consultation documents to educate and inform the general public as well as policymakers in a clear, objective fashion.
  • Create public-private collaborations to bridge the gap between industry and consumers and allow for greater transparency.