Illah Nourbakhsh

TALK: On the Collision of Robot Ethics and Robot Futures

As robots extend existing power relationships of information and control to the tangible world even further, they interrogate our definition of humanity, and they also exacerbate relationships built on hegemonies of power in society. In this talk I navigate the possible robot futures we face from the point of view of human-human and human-robot relationships of power, control and ethics.

ILLAH NOURBAKHSH is Professor of Robotics and Director of the Community Robotics, Education and Technology Empowerment (CREATE) Lab and head of the Robotics Master’s Program in The Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. His current research projects explore community-based robotics, including educational and social robotics and ways to use robotic technology to empower individuals and communities. He is a member of the Global Future Council on the Future of AI and Robotics for the World Economic Forum, and the IEEE Global Initiative for the Ethical Considerations in the Design of Autonomous Systems, the Global Innovation Council of the Varkey Foundation and Senior Advisor to The Future Society, Harvard Kennedy School. He is author of Robot Futures (MIT 2013), which uses fictional scenarios that offer plausible human robot futures and expose some of the problems of limitless robotic perception/surveillance, and raises ethical concern about machines with variable amounts of autonomy.  Most recently he published Parenting for Technology Futures.

WEB (link BLOG (link)


The Industrialization Impasse. WEF 2016 (link)

The Automated Economy. WEF 2015 (link)

Hub Culture Interview with Illah Nourbakhsh. WEF 2015 (link)


Will Robots Really Take Over Our Jobs? 2014 (link)


Nourbakhsh, I. “Three Not-Laws of AI.” Huffington Post. 25 Dec 2016 (link)

— “Artificial Intelligence Loves Natural Naiveté.” Huffington Post. 18 Aug 2016 (link)

— “Make for Humanity.” Huffington Post. Updated: 29 Jun 2016 (link)

— “Nightmare on Automation Street.” Huffington Post. Updated: 03 Jun 2016 (link)

— “The Coming Robot Dystopia.” Foreign Affairs. July/August 2015 (link)

— “Illah Nourbakhsh on the Future of Robotics.” Wall Street Journal. 07 Jul 2014 (link)

— “Google’s Robot Army. The New Yorker.” 16 Dec 2013 (link)

— “It’s Time to Talk about the Burgeoning Robot Middle-Class.” MIT Tech Rev. May 2013 (link)

— “A Duty To Protect The Middle Class.” Huffington Post. Updated: 13 Jun 2015 (link)

— “Drone Rules.” Huffington Post. Updated: 20 Apr 2015 (link)

— “Is A.I. Looming?”Huffington Post. Updated: 11 Apr 2015 (link)

— “Systems Science Meets Planet Earth.” Huffington Post. Updated: 30 Mar 2015 (link)


Robot Futures (link)


[From the cover] With robots, we are inventing a new species that is part material and part digital. The ambition of modern robotics goes beyond copying humans, beyond the effort to make walking, talking androids that are indistinguishable from people. Future robots will have superhuman abilities in both the physical and digital realms. They will be embedded in our physical spaces, with the ability to go where we cannot, and will have minds of their own, thanks to artificial intelligence. In Robot Futures, the roboticist Illah Reza Nourbakhsh considers how we will share our world with these creatures, and how our society could change as it incorporates a race of stronger, smarter beings.


Parenting for New Technology (link)

[From the cover] New technology has become a runaway train, with impending revolutions in robotics and AI that will change society dramatically. This book addresses the most pressing question of all: how do we best prepare our children for this tech-heavy future, so they have a fighting chance for employment and quality of life even as underemployment and inequality continue to grow? Book 1: Education and Technology provides tutorials of three key issues that every parent wants to track: the STEM education movement; school reform, standards and teacher accountability; and digital learning tools that are upending traditional classrooms. The final chapter provides a basic recipe for how to engage, at home and at school, to ensure that your children gain Technology Fluency, which will be critical to their future success no matter what career directions they choose.