Make Way for the Robots! Human‑ and Machine‑Centricity in Constituting a European Public–Private Partnership
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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This article is an analytic register of recent European efforts in the making of ‘autonomous’ robots to address what is imagined as Europe’s societal challenges. The paper describes how an emerging techno-epistemic network stretches across industry, science, policy and law to legitimize and enact a robotics innovation agenda. Roadmap is the main metaphor and organizing tool in working across the disciplines and sectors, and in aligning these heterogeneous actors with a machine-centric vision along a path to make way for ‘new kinds’ of robots. We describe what happens as this industry-dominated project docks in a public–private partnership with pan-European institutions and a legislative initiative on robolaw. Emphasizing the co-production of robotics and European innovation politics, we observe how well-known uncertainties and scholarly debates about machine capabilities and human–machine configurations, are unexpectedly played out in legal scholarship and institutions as a controversy and a significant problem for human-centered legal frameworks. European robotics are indeed driving an increase in speculative ethics and a new-found weight of possible futures in legislative practice.