Frontier Research Institute for Interdisciplinary Sciences
Tohoku University

FRIS Interviews #06

FRIS Interviews#06

  • 翁岳暄Yueh-Hsuan Weng

    人工知能と法・法情報学・ソーシャルロボティクスHuman and Society

The Frontier Research Institute for Interdisciplinary Sciences aims to "create new values by cultivating and developing interdisciplinary research and contribute to human society". The plan that researchers belonging to the institute talk and think about the concept above is this series "Beyond the Border".

While talking about each of their research lives, they will talk about "interdisciplinary activities that each of them experienced". While highlighting the ideals and actualities of the Frontier Research Institute for Interdisciplinary Sciences (hereinafter referred to as "FRIS"), at the same time, it is the place for the members of FRIS to consider the future of the organization through dialogue.

When did you start getting interested in your research field and why?
When did you decide to be a researcher?

My research interest is the intersection between Artificial Intelligence and Law. I became involved in this field in two short-term studies at UC Berkeley and Waseda University in 2004, where I had the opportunity to experience Fuzzy Logic and Humanoid Robots respectively.
After the two trips, I was amazed by AI and robotics and started to think about the possibility of applying them to the domain of Law. From my point of view, what has changed the role of robots in society is their contact level with humans.
The history of industrial robots can be traced back to Unimation in 1956. That is to say – more than 60 years. Recently more and more robotics applications are used in human daily environments, but not inside factories. This technological trend will change the role of robots a lot, because of their high contact level, robotic engineers have to be aware of ethical, legal, and social issues in robotics when they design autonomous systems. On the other hand, contemporary robot safety regulation, which is based on the policy of human-robot segregation, will be different for AI-enabled robots, we will need social scientists to review and revise current social systems to ensure human-robot co-existence. I am glad that I have already made my resolution to become a researcher in this field in previous trips.
Yueh-Hsuan Weng

Assistant Professor, Frontier Research Institute for Interdisciplinary Sciences
He received his Ph.D. in Law from Peking University. After working as a Research Associate at Peking University Law School, Visiting Researcher at Faculty of Science and Engineering, Waseda University, Visiting Scholar at CIRSFID, Faculty of Law, University of Bologna, Executive Assistant at Foxconn Technology Group, Visiting Assistant Professor at Faculty of Law, University of Hong Kong, he has been in the current position since 2017. His specialty are in issues concerning the interface between artificial intelligence and law, including robot law, social robotics, and legal informatics.

What made you decide to choose Interdisciplinary research science?

We know that one of the critical things of doing research is “question awareness”. This was also the most difficult part to do interdisciplinary research in Artificial Intelligence and Law more than ten years ago.
From my personal observation, there was a huge gap between engineering faculties and law schools in their recognition of the importance of doing such research at that time. Unlike engineering faculties, which have practical attitudes towards research into Artificial Intelligence and Law, law schools usually are more cautious in this regard. For some this field of research is even taboo. I knew that it was not possible for me to realize interdisciplinary research at law school, so I switched to the Department of Computer Science, National Chiao Tung University to start my graduate study in Artificial Intelligence and Law, and several years later moved back to Law School, Peking University to finish my Ph.D. in 2014.
Luckily, my advisor at NCTU Prof. Chuen-Tsai Sun received his Ph.D. at UC Berkeley under the supervision of Prof. Lotfi A. Zadeh, who is the founder of Fuzzy Logic. Also, I got another chance to have doctoral joint education at Humanoid Robotics Institute, Waseda University under the supervision of Prof. Atsuo Takanishi in my Ph.D. study. These experiences not only expanded my view of the study of Artificial Intelligence and Law, but also helped me to intensify my question awareness for this research.

How do you think about other disciplines?
Do you have experience that you find new findings at FRIS?

There are six main research groups at FRIS, they are Materials and Energy, Life and Environmental Science, Device Technology, Information and Systems, Human and Society, Advanced Basic Science. I belong to the group of Human and Society. Due to my educational background, I should admit that I am not familiar with other groups except with Information and Systems. However, the institute provides many channels for me, or even outsiders can have a greater understanding of these disciplines. For example, there is the FRIS Seminar to invite thinkers in multi-disciplines including Jaan Tallinn and Huw Price to share their ongoing research with the public. Such interdisciplinary seminars help me to absorb new knowledge from other disciplines.

What are the good points and bad points about FRIS?
How do you think about the future of FRIS? And how do you want to be?

In Asia, there are a few research institutions like FRIS which promote interdisciplinary sciences. One uniqueness of FRIS among these institutions is that their assistant professors can be assigned to many different departments inside Tohoku University. Take me for example, I am affiliated with the Graduate School of Engineering to work with my mentor Prof. Yasuhisa Hirata, who is a robotist. It does not only help to expand the breadth of my knowledge of ELSI in AI & Robotics, but also inspires new ideas in the intersection of social sciences and robotics, such as Social Robotics.
In addition, FRIS provides many supports and opportunities to their researchers. It is easier for me to expand my international collaborative networks with colleagues from The University of Hong Kong and National Taiwan University in the study of Artificial Intelligence and Law under the FRIS academic platform. A potential concern to FRIS is about the imbalance between natural and social sciences. Maybe we will consider designing a system to encourage more interdisciplinary research with a central focus on social sciences. Finally, I am optimistic about the future of FRIS, because many great innovations in this century came from the intersection of two or more disciplines. We definitely need to be aware of the importance of interdisciplinary sciences, especially in the age of Artificial Intelligence.