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Prof. Kerr and uOttawa Law Students Take Miami by Storm

On April 21-22, 2012, Professor Ian Kerr and three third-year common law students, Kristen Thomasen, Sinziana Gutiu and Katie Szilagyi, participated in an inaugural conference on legal and policy issues relating to the rapidly emerging field of robotics.

Held at the University of Miami, School of Law, the "We, Robot" conference examined how increasingly sophisticated robots and their widespread deployment in the home, hospitals, public spaces the battlefield disrupts existing legal regimes and requires rethinking of various policy issues.

Prof. Kerr, recognized as a leader in the field, was a member of the conference organizing committee. He and all three uOttawa students were honoured to present their work at the Miami conference. “The University of Ottawa rocked Miami taking four of the fifteen coveted spots to present our research at this conference,” remarked Sinziana Gutiu. “Having our research heard and evaluated by such prominent experts was the icing on the cake.”

“Because the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law regularly offers a course on ‘The Laws of Robotics’, we are seen as an global frontrunner in the field,” said Prof. Kerr. “And, I am so proud of Kristen, Sinzi and Katie—who beat out more than fifty other submissions in the field in a peer-reviewed competition.”

All of the uOttawa papers were the product of a unique Directed Research Project (DRP) reading group, created and supervised by Prof. Kerr.

Kristen Thomasen presented her DRP research entitled “Examining the Constitutionality of Enhanced Robo-Interrogation.”  Sinziana Gutiu presented her DRP research entitled “Sex Robots and Roboticization of Consent.”

Kristen and Sinzi's panel:

Katie Szilagyi presented her DRP research (co-authored with Prof. Kerr) entitled “Asleep at the Switch? How Lethal Autonomous Robots Become a Force Multiplier of Military Necessity.”

Katie and Prof.Kerr's panel:

Prof Kerr presented an additional paper, with co-author Jason Millar, entitled “Delegation, Relinquishment and Responsibility: The Prospect of Expert Robots.”

Prof. Kerr and Jason's panel:

Conference organizer and world-renowned cyberlaw scholar, Michael Froomkin, has been approached by a high profile U.S. University Press, seeking to turn these and other papers from the conference into a book pioneering this nascent field.

"We were all really proud to represent our school at an international conference attended by leaders in the field from top universities including M.I.T., Stanford, West Point and, of course, the University of Miami,” said Kristen Thomasen, who will clerk for Justice Rosalie Abella in 2013. “It was great to see the University of Ottawa among them.”

Katie Szilagyi, one of Common Law’s star mooters, further added that, “The conference provided a fantastic intellectual opportunity to interact with individuals that are leaders in their respective fields and facilitated fascinating discussions with what lies beyond the frontier of this new milieu—including engaging with the ever-perplexing question: is a robot more like a monkey or a Harley Davidson?”

Reflecting on how this opportunity came about, Prof. Kerr noted: “This speaks well of the vision underlying our major paper requirement and the DRP program. International peer-reviewed publication is the pinnacle of academic success, so this really bodes well for a program that seeks to enhance our students’ capabilities in legal research and writing. And, this event demonstrates, yet again, that we truly have some of the best students in the world. Our success in events such as these really takes the typical mooting competition to the next level.”

All draft papers are available for download at the We, Robot website.

Kristen Thomasen, Prof. Ian Kerr, Katie Szilagyi and Sinziana Gutiu


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Last updated: 2009.12.15