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Sunday, July 30, 2017

Robotics for Good: The Ethics of Automation

non-technical: suitable for any reader

Hello world! There have been many fantastic experiences at Carnegie Mellon this summer. I'll go over the highlights quick since major deadlines are approaching.

Research Update
My colleague (Gabe) and I have been working intensively on our summer project. The RISS supervisors notified us that we have a research paper due by July 31st (~9 days from when we were notified). Upon submitting our research paper there will be a 1 week peer review time before we will be sent changes to make. The final acceptance of the paper will be on August 8th. Aside from the RISS journal, Gabe and I are shooting for a large publication in the next month, which is our primary focus. We aren't able to discuss details prior to publication, but I'll be looking forward to talking about it more once we are complete. Oh, there is also a poster due for the RISS event as well... Don't worry you'll get to see soon enough!
Gabriel Arpino and Kyle Morris at Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute
Myself (right) and my colleague Gabriel Arpino (left)

Event Series
I've not been able to attend every one of the several events hosted weekly; however, the events I did attend were quite valuable. I found it impressive how the events in the last 2 weeks all shared a similar theme of identifying yourself, your goals, and your values, ie self-identification. Despite the events being coordinated by different individuals, they have a way of following a similar theme across the summer in sync.

Communicating Science
Writing a statement of purpose
This talk outlined the steps towards preparation for graduate school and writing a personal statement. The personal statement (along with recommendation letters) are said to be some of the most important pieces of an application package for a student. We were guided in this talk through the process of collecting values, identifying institutions of choice, and structuring our personal statement....

Exploring Robotics
Robotics for Good/Values and Ethics for AI systems
Eduard Fosch-Villaronga, law and ethics researcher from the University of Twente, gave a talk to us regarding the ethic of automation. This doesn't refer to "robots taking over the world" and other fantasies of the like; but rather the need for conscious thought regarding the moral and ethical consequences of artificial intelligence. We are all out here this summer doing research, varying in applications and theory; however it is crucial to consider what our work now may influence in the future. This applies to any field in which you are carving the future. What are you building? What have you created? Ask yourself this and consider: who may use it in the future? What may it be used for? The most influential part of the session for me involved selecting our personal values. Eduard explained how as an individual, we are able to realistically focus on roughly 7 core values. These are the values that WE identify with, and that largely represent us and determine our actions in the world. We were then given an outline of values to choose from and asked to select the 7 that connect the most with us. One important thing to note is that the 7 values you pick would vary depending on context. For example, if I were to choose the 7 values I care about most in a colleague, they would vary from the 7 values I pick for MYSELF.

Try it for yourself. Take some time to look through a list, such as found HERE, and select the 7 values that stand out to you the most, ie the ones you can't go without. Once you're done, I'll outline (below) what my selections were, and why. I strongly suggest you pick your own first before I introduce my own bias. Each of us values different things, and I'd be curious what yours were.

Feel free to comment below with what you selected, if you're into that kind of thing.
I have outlined my 7 most valued values below, in order
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My Core Values

#7: Intelligence:

This is a very common value; however it just barely makes it onto my list. I believe intelligence is important as it aids decision making. It is also more enjoyable to be around those who strive to learn and have the knowledge to exchange in the discussion. If someone is not inherently "gifted" or "bright" or whatever it is deemed, I hold nothing personal against them.


 #6: Optimism
Credit: Getty images

No matter how negative the environment, I value the ability to change things around and rephrase them in a positive sense. There are no problems, only opportunities.

#5: Skill

This entails focus and specialty in one's craft. A keenness and good placement in what they do that puts them ahead of others in the area. I value this very much in others and respect it.  I don't believe in the concept of pure talent, in that one may be born with a natural skill that is beyond anything that hard work can't replicate. I am far from the most skilled person; but when I see skill in others, what I see is hard consistent work to get there. I strive each day to become more skilled in what I do.

#4: Teamwork

Teamwork is the ability to work well with others, tolerate differences, and leverage off of them. I put this one in 4th place because even if someone doesn't work well on a team, if they possess the traits #1-#3 that I outline below, then I could still find ways to leverage their ability. Lots of companies identify this as the #1 value and I also agree it is crucial as I would never have gotten to where I am now without the tremendous help from friends, family, colleagues, and mentors that make up the many teams I am part of. I just don't think it is the be-all-end-all value, as some others may claim; but it is important.

#3: Honesty

The ability for one to take ownership of their own mistakes and be straightforward and accurate with others about what they have/have not done. This is a pretty typical value... but I connect with it deeply. I rather go through my life knowing I hurt someone with the truth than by comforting them with lies. I rather be fired from my position for failing, than remain an employee that hides -- or even worse -- passes the blame on their mistakes.

#2: Reliability 

Reliability means that if you say you are going to get something done, you get it done. It doesn't matter how, or how hard it was. If someone falls short of being able to meet their own contract, and they fail to let others on a team know, it is difficult to find a place for them. Furthermore, if I lack reliability, then my goals would crumble into mere ideas. I am in a contract with myself, and I rely on myself every day to carry my mind and body each step of the way no matter how difficult.

#1: Diligence

This is the number one most valuable thing for myself, and in how I see others. It is constant and consistent effort to complete work, by utilizing all of one's mind and body.
This means not taking slack because your mentor isn't watching, or because you're not on the clock. Diligence is all around intensity and focus on what it is you do. Someone may put on a face around others, acting as if they are interested and engaged; however, they are lax, and dull, and falter when left unattended... This cannot easily be changed in a person, and I believe it is a tremendous misfortune of character.
I frequently hear from my peers that I'm too intense, or need to relax, but this is one of the things I'm most proud of. If I'm not putting my maximum effort into everything I do, every day, regardless of who's watching, what would I get from life but an onslaught of "what-ifs", "if-only" and regrets as I progress into the future?
As one of my favorite quotes goes: "The only easy day was yesterday..."
This is the attitude I believe one must have every day.

Final Weeks of RISS
Things are crazy right now, I'm barely getting time to write this, and I was supposed to make this post a couple of weeks ago. Alas, I've slipped it onto the Blog now. Taking some time to write out my thoughts helps me sift through the noise and plan for the weeks to come. There is far too much going on to process; so it comes down to prioritizing and making every decision count. In short... The research presentation for RISS, which is a required deliverable of the program features a research paper and poster presentation. Along with this, I'm striving to develop further industry connections while I'm at CMU, as it would be tragic to not meet all of the great minds that walk the halls I work in.

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