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Course description

The course aims at providing students with a broad understanding of all implications of robotics that are going to be of increasing relevance in the legal, political and social debate over the coming years.

According to a study by McKinsey, robotics is a disruptive technology that may reach a market value of USD 4.5 trillion per year by 2025. Developing a leading industry in this field is therefore strategic and all major world economies are heavily investing in its research. This is the case in Europe, China, Japan, Korea, and the United States.

At the same time, some technologies – in particular biorobotics (bionic limbs, exoskeletons, brain machine interfaces) – are going to deeply challenge our understanding of human life and human limits. Other technologies – e.g. expert systems and AI – promise to reshape the labour market - triggering unemployment for some and opening up new possibilities for others.

As every aspect of our society will be touched upon, mere technological research is insufficient. Social scientists – lawyers, political scientists, economists, as well as engineers researching these technologies need to start addressing the many relevant issues raised. To do so, however, they need to acquire a novel and highly interdisciplinary approach, crossing law, economics, engineering and ethics.

The course will offer an overview:

  • of relevant European regulation, both existing and prospective, in fields such as liability, privacy (privacy by design), robot-testing, and product safety

  • of European and international standards for certification and benchmarking,

  • of the ethical debate triggered by some emerging technologies, including autonomous vehicles, AI and biorobotics products for human enhancement

  • of the European approach to Responsible Research and Innovation,

  • of the economic challenges connected with innovation (start-ups and financing).

Moreover, it will introduce students to a highly interdisciplinary methodology – developed within the EU funded RoboLaw Project – to analyze these relevant issues.

The knowledge and skills acquired by the end of the course are intended to provide the necessary background to start independent research in law and technology, as well as to provide consultancy to industries involved in the development of robotic devices.