No Justice, No Robots
No Justice, No Robots

An Open Letter From Robotics Researchers

"We appeal as human beings to human beings: Remember your humanity, and forget the rest.” (Russell-Einstein Manifesto, 1955)

Our nation is in a state of turmoil due to the violent response to protests over the murders of people of color by U.S. police. Recent events have shone a spotlight on the brutal and racist policing behaviors of our nationwide network of local law enforcement agencies, as well as the dangers of a police force that is heavily militarized, unaccountable, and untrained or unwilling to build ties with their communities. In cities across the U.S., police have been deploying chemical weapons, vehicles, and less-than-lethal rounds, against peaceful protesters, children, bystanders, and members of the press -- especially against members of our BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) communities. While the technologies used in the service of police brutality has, thus far, been confined to those technologies described above, there is significant risk of future misuse of robotic technologies by police forces, especially as police forces around the world continue to adopt robotic technologies.

We acknowledge that there are excellent researchers doing valuable work with local law enforcement agencies, and that there are local police departments that have not demonstrated brutality. We also acknowledge that law enforcement is important for many societally beneficial projects. However, we also acknowledge that the history of American law enforcement has its origins in fundamentally racist endeavors such as slave patrols, and that these origins continue to influence modern law enforcement institutions. We also acknowledge that police forces in many of our own communities have actively demonstrated brutality and racism towards our communities, coupled with poor judgment in their acquisition and deployment of equipment. As such, we cannot in good faith trust these police forces with the types of robotic technologies we are responsible for researching and developing.

The strongest protection against future misuse is likely to be based in policy and legislation to provide necessary oversight and protection of civil liberties. We believe that the clearest path toward preventing this misuse is to (1) pass legislation requiring state and local governments to acquire informed public consent before acquiring robotic technologies, similar to Massachusetts Senate Bill S1358; (2) advocate for policies that decrease police departments' ability to acquire robotic technology, and that instead work towards community health, education, and affordable housing; and (3) where police acquisition of robotic technology cannot be curbed, advocate for appropriate training in the use of such technology, and for policing strategies that are oriented around community-oriented policing.

While we agree to advocate for such policy decisions, it is nevertheless important to recognize that policy decisions are ultimately out of our control, and that we must thus take whatever additional actions that are within our control. Accordingly, we additionally pledge the following actions.

  1. We refuse to facilitate the execution or publication of research in robotics or Artificial Intelligence (AI) that is performed in collaboration with State and Local Law Enforcement agencies (or national agencies such as ICE and CBP).
  2. We refuse to pursue or accept funding for research projects whose express goal is development of robotic technologies or AI technologies (e.g., nonconsensual face recognition technologies, predictive policing models, etc.) intended for use by such agencies.
  3. For those of us who are affiliated with colleges and universities, we pledge to petition our universities to divest themselves of all ties with law enforcement agencies that have demonstrated brutality, prejudice, or white supremacist tendencies.

Signed:

Tom Williams (Asst. Prof., Colorado School of Mines)
Kerstin Haring (PhD)
Brad Hayes (Asst. Prof., University of Colorado, Boulder)
Elizabeth Phillips (Asst. Prof.)
Alessandro Roncone (Asst. Prof., University of Colorado)
Daniel Pittman (Assoc. Prof. of the Practice, University of Denver)
Brian Scassellati (Prof., Yale)
Chris S Crawford (Asst. Prof., University of Alabama)
Scott T Leutenegger(Prof., University of Denver)
Jeffrey Edgington(Teaching Prof., University of Denver)
Dominique Archambault(Prof., University Paris 8)
Timothy Bretl(Assoc. Prof., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
Milos Zefran(Prof., University of Illinois at Chicago)
Chris GauthierDickey(Assoc. Prof. and Chair, University of Denver)
Hui Xie(Lecturer, Western Sydney University)
Cristina Zaga(Asst. Prof., University of Twente)
Ludovic Righetti(Assoc. Prof., New York University)
Achim J. Lilienthal(Prof., Orebro University)
Carmine Recchiuto(Asst. Prof., Università di Genova)
Andra Keay(Managing Director Silicon Valley Robotics , Visiting Scholar at UC CITRIS CPAR)
Mohan Sridharan(Sen. Lec. / Assoc. Prof., Unversity of Birmingham, UK)
John Voiklis(Research Lead, Behaviors, Knology (PhD))
Steven Lessard(Robotics Engineer (PhD))
Sarah Thornton(Robotics Engineer (PhD))
Nicole Carey(Research Scientist (PhD), Autodesk Robotics Lab)
Nicholas Eckenstein(Senior Robotics Software Engineer (PhD))
George V. Paul(Staff Roboticist (PhD), OMRON Robot and Safety Technologies)
Ali Leylavi Shoushtari (Senior Postdoctoral Researcher, Wageningen University)
Giulia Perugia (Postdoctoral Researcher, Uppsala University)
Nadia Figueroa (Postdoctoral Associate, MIT)
Andrew Sabelhaus (Postdoctoral Research Associate, Carnegie Mellon University)
Reuben Aronson (PhD Student, Carnegie Mellon University)
Abhijat Biswas (PhD Student, Carnegie Mellon University)
Gokul Swamy (PhD Student, Carnegie Mellon University)
Vasanth Sarathy (PhD Student, Tufts University)
Poulomi Pal (PhD Student, Colorado School of Mines)
Emily Kim (PhD Student, Carnegie Mellon University)
Samantha Powers (PhD Student, Carnegie Mellon University)
Theresa Law (PhD Student, Tufts University)
Kim Baraka (PhD Student, Carnegie Mellon University)
Sam Spaulding (PhD Student, MIT)
Jonathan King (PhD Student, Carnegie Mellon University)
Rev. Dylan Doyle-Burke (PhD Student, University of Denver)
Daniel Kasenberg (PhD Student, Tufts University)
Niveditha Kalavakonda (PhD Student, University of Washington)
Marwa ElDiwiny (PhD Student, University of Brussels)
Nicholas Rabb (PhD Student, Tufts University)
Lawrence Kim (PhD Student, Stanford University)
Atta Muhammad Nizamani (PhD Student, Mehran University of Engineering and Technology)
Sonia Roberts (PhD Student, University of Pennsylvania)
Mike Ligthart (PhD Student, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)
Pouria Tajvar (PhD Student, KTH Royal Institute of Technology)
Alejandro F Azocar (PhD Student, University of Michigan)
John Jackson (PhD Student, University of Colorado, Boulder)
Ioanna Mitsioni (PhD Student, KTH Royal Institute of Technology)
Serena Booth (PhD Student, MIT)
Miguel Vasco (PhD Student, Instituto Superior Técnico, University of Lisbon)
Amal Nanavati (PhD Student, University of Washington)
Nick Walker (PhD Student, University of Washington)
Vinitha Ranganeni (PhD Student, University of Washington)
Raquel Oliveira (PhD Student, ISCTE-IUL)
Adam Fishman (PhD Student, University of Washington)
William Agnew (PhD Student, University of Washington)
Victoria Dean (PhD Student, Carnegie Mellon University)
Antonio Andriella (PhD Student, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya)
Adam Seewald (PhD Student, University of Southern Denmark)
Antonella Wilby (PhD Student, University of California, San Diego)
Ankit Shah (PhD Student, MIT)
Elmira Yadollahi (PhD Student, Instituto Superior Técnico and EPFL)
Mary Martin (PhD Student, University of Colorado, Boulder)
Michael Suguitan (PhD Student, Cornell University)
Ilan Mandel (PhD Student, Cornell Tech)
Daniel Feshbach (PhD Student, University of Pennsylvania)
Zach Patterson (PhD Student, Carnegie Mellon University)
Yuhan Hu (PhD Student, Cornell University)
Andrea Ciullo (PhD Student, Italian Institute of Technology)
Amritansh Kwatra (Cornell University)
Tess Hellebrekers (PhD Student, Carnegie Mellon University)
Mycal Tucker (PhD Student, MIT)
Ethan K. Gordon (PhD Student, University of Washington)
Bilkit Githinji (PhD Student, MIT)
Prasanth Suresh (PhD Student, University of Georgia)
Leah Perlmutter (PhD Student, University of Washington)
Jacob Sacks (PhD Student, University of Washington)
Preeti Ramaraj (PhD Student, University of Michigan)
Ammar Kothari (Robotics Engineer (MS), Third Wave Automation)
Dean Thurston (MS Student, Tufts University)
Lombe Chileshe (MS Student, University of Denver)
Alexis Sanders (MS Student, University of Maryland)
Paresh Soni (MS Student, Oregon State University)
Riley Knox (MS Student, Northwestern University)
Parker Epps (Alumna, Colorado School of Mines)
Jan Chang (Undergraduate Student, University of Colorado, Boulder)
Matt Strong (Undergraduate Student, University of Colorado, Boulder)
Eleanor Sarder (Undergraduate Student, University of Colorado, Boulder)
Jacob Gorenburg (Undergraduate Student, Haverford College)
Jason Friedman (Undergraduate Student, University of Pennsylvania)
Jessica Wallace (Undergraduate Student, Carnegie Mellon University)
Kassandra Sanders (Undergraduate Student)
Athena Chien (Undergraduate Student, Rice University)
Jaime Augusto Alvarez Perez (Undergraduate Student, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley)
Alicia Moore (University of Deleware)
Katherine Ray (Software Developer)
Howard Smith(Founder, Flickitt Ecosystems)
Dr. Chris Himes (Educator & Teacher)
Shomari Stewart (Teacher)
Nate Ouzts
Jarrod Caldwell
Daniel Paredes
Ayanna Madison

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