The Greatest Conference Paper Ever Written

Can ratpag get off topic for a moment? A couple weeks ago the University of Miami hosted the WeRobot 2014 conference on robotics law. While articles in legal journals are thoroughly fact-checked and foot-noted by an army of 2nd year law students, papers at legal conferences seem to have been written on the plane ride over. I meant to spend this post talking about the plane ride papers, until I discovered this one:  “Chief Justice John Roberts is a Robot.”


This thing is perfect. First, you see, the title is not pejorative. You probably don’t even know what pejorative means. ratpag does… and we’ll tell you… right now…



And you probably just remember it from The Simpsons where Homer gets accused of sexual harassment.

Back to the article. The authors’ are asking whether, if we today discovered that John Roberts had been a sophisticated military robot during his entire adult life, had gone to Harvard, had gotten confirmed to the Supreme Court as a robot, and had never lied about being a robot because he was never asked, does that invalidate his decisions? Pretty sci-fi stuff, huh? This is like straight out of Star Trek.

startrekThey cited the Star Trek Fleet Technical Manual!!! And we’re only at page 2. This has got to be a bar bet.

Then it gets weirder.


Now it’s true that the Roberts adopted their two children, but was it really necessary to bring that up? Are they insinuating that he couldn’t have children because he was a robot?

You know what this paper is missing? A Star Wars reference, complete with citation.


And we’re only on page 3! Then they just start making up words.

madeup1 madeup2

Worst last name of all time? Also, Hercules?



Muhammad Ali makes an appearance, naturally.


You can hide literally anything you want in the footnotes. At some point they introduce the term “lawyerbots.” And if you’re keeping track, we’re on page 8 of 41. It just keeps coming! What else is there to do? How about a multi-line quote from The Matrix while simultaneously citing your own Wikipedia page? That’s on page 9.


It settles down after this (I guess the Wikipedia self-cite was the top of the mountain), except for the occasional Bob Seeger quote, p. 19.


Later they pretty much confirm that they were working on this on the plane ride over.


And before you write this off as a joke by some bored grad students, know that the authors are both professors at real colleges. Ian Kerr has a three way appointment in the Faculty of Law, the Faculty of Medicine and the Department of Philosophy at the University of Ottawa, while Carissima Mathen has a mere single appointment in the University of Ottowa School of Law. ratpag wonders why these Canadians are writing about John Roberts and not … hold on …. hold on … Chief Justice of Canada Beverley McLachlin.


Is this article just a big fuck you to America? Well fuck you right back!

That last sentence was not pejorative.

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