Asaro, Peter


Peter Asaro
PhD, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Assistant Professor of Media Studies

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Areas of Expertise:
Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Digital Media; Robotics and Warfare; Interactive Digital Design
Dr. Peter Asaro is a philosopher of science, technology and media. His work examines artificial intelligence and robotics as a form of digital media, and the ways in which technology mediates social relations and shapes our experience of the world.

His current research focuses on the social, cultural, political, legal and ethical dimensions of military robotics and UAV drones, from a perspective that combines media theory with science and technology studies. He has written widely-cited papers on lethal robotics from the perspective of just war theory and human rights. As Co-Founder and Co-Chair of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control (, he works on the human rights issues surrounding targeted killing by drones, and arms control issues for autonomous lethal robotics.

Dr. Asaro's research also examines agency and autonomy, liability and punishment, and privacy and surveillance as it applies to consumer robots, industrial automation, smart buildings, and autonomous vehicles. His research has been published in international peer reviewed journals and edited volumes, and he is currently writing a book that interrogates the intersections between advanced robotics and social and ethical issues.

His research is also informed by his involvement in digital media design projects with the Virtual Environments Group at the National Center for Supercomputer Applications (NCSA), the Advanced and Interactive Displays Lab at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, Iguana Robotics, Inc., and was involved in the design of the natural language interface for the Wolfram|Alpha computational knowledge engine for Wolfram Research--this interface is also used by Apple's Siri and Microsoft's Bing to answer math queries, and won two SXSW Web Interactive Awards for Technical Achievement and Best of Show.

He is currently working on an Oral History of Robotics project, funded by a grant from the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society. The project is conducting video interviews with over 100 pioneers of the field of robotics worldwide. He has also received a Digital Humanities Start-up Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to build open-source HTML5 tools for navigating and curating this digital video archive for on-line access.
Courses Taught:
  • Digital War: Rhetoric, Risks & Realities
  • Robots as Media
  • Robot Media Studio
  • Designing Methods for Studying Media
Recent Publications:
Altmann, J., P. Asaro, N. Sharkey, and R. Sparrow (2013). “ Armed Military Robots: Editorial,” Ethics and Information Technology 15 (2), June 2013, pp. 73-76.

Asaro, P. (2013). " The Labor of Surveillance and Bureaucratized Killing: New Subjectivities of Military Drone Operators," Special Issue on Charting, Tracking, Mapping: Technology, Labor, and Surveillance, Gretchen Soderlund (ed.), Social Semiotics, 23 (2), pp. 196-224.

Asaro, P. (2012). "On Banning Autonomous Lethal Systems: Human Rights, Automation and the Dehumanizing of Lethal Decision-making," Special Issue on New Technologies and Warfare, International Review of the Red Cross,94 (886), Summer 2012, pp. 687-709.

Asaro, P. (2012). "How Just Could a Robot War Be?" in Erica L. Gaston and Patti Tamara Lenard (eds.), Ethics of 21st Century Military Conflict, New York, NY: IDEBATE Press, pp. 257-269.

Asaro, P. (2011). "A Body to Kick, But Still No Soul to Damn: Legal Perspectives on Robotics," in Patrick Lin, Keith Abney, and George Bekey (eds.) Robot Ethics: The Ethical and Social Implications of Robotics. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp. 169-186.

Asaro, P. (2011). "Computers as Models of the Mind: On Simulations, Brains and the Design of Early Computers," in Stefano Franchi and Francesco Bianchini (eds.) The Search for a Theory of Cognition: Early Mechanisms and New Ideas. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Rodopi, pp. 89-114.

Asaro, P. (2011). "Remote-Control Crimes: Roboethics and Legal Jurisdictions of Tele-Agency," Special Issue on Roboethics, Gianmarco Veruggio, Mike Van der Loos, and Jorge Solis (eds.), IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine, 18 (1), 68-71.

Asaro, P. (2009). "Modeling the Moral User: Designing Ethical Interfaces for Tele-Operation," IEEE Technology & Society, 28 (1), 20-24

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