Accepted paper:

Make way for the robots! Roles for autonomy in building a European public-private partnership


Kjetil Rommetveit (University of Bergen)
Niels van Dijk (Vrije Universiteit Brussel)
Kristrún Gunnarsdóttir (University of Surrey)

Paper short abstract:

This talk describes an autonomous robotics imaginary and its implementation in a techno-epistemic network across science, industry, politics and law. The roadmap is the main metaphor and organising tool, aligning heterogeneous actors along a common path towards a future European robotic society.

Paper long abstract:

This talk describes and critically assesses how the 'ageing society' as a political challenge increasingly appears deeply entangled with efforts to design, build and market autonomous machines. Whereas this effort has a long history, it took on more institutional dimensions with the establishment of a European technology platform for robotics in 2005. Upon the launch of this platform, then-commissioner for ICT and media, Vivian Reding, proclaimed how "We need … to address many societal challenges, the ageing population, the well being of our society, and the need for security … Robotics will contribute to these challenges". Based upon a three-year study of innovation networks in the European Union, we describe how the autonomous robots imaginary has been appropriated and mobilised by key institutional actors. The paper describes the making of a techno-epistemic network that cuts across industry, science, politics and law, and how it appropriates and enacts this imaginary, creating meeting places across the boundaries between human and machine, different disciplines and sectors. Roadmaps are the main metaphor and organising tool in this work, aligning these heterogeneous actors along a common machine-centric and future-oriented path. Focusing on a recent legislative initiative for robotics, we describe what happens as the industry-dominated project of building robot autonomy docks with public institutions in a public-private partnership. Emphasising the co-production of robotics and politics we observe how human-machine configurations now also enter the legal institutions as a controversy and a problem for human-centred constitutions.

panel F11
Technopolitics of integration. Charting imaginaries of innovation in the European Union