Granny and the robots: ethical issues in robot care for the elderly

Ethics and Information Technology 14 (1):27-40 (2012)
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Abstract

The growing proportion of elderly people in society, together with recent advances in robotics, makes the use of robots in elder care increasingly likely. We outline developments in the areas of robot applications for assisting the elderly and their carers, for monitoring their health and safety, and for providing them with companionship. Despite the possible benefits, we raise and discuss six main ethical concerns associated with: (1) the potential reduction in the amount of human contact; (2) an increase in the feelings of objectification and loss of control; (3) a loss of privacy; (4) a loss of personal liberty; (5) deception and infantilisation; (6) the circumstances in which elderly people should be allowed to control robots. We conclude by balancing the care benefits against the ethical costs. If introduced with foresight and careful guidelines, robots and robotic technology could improve the lives of the elderly, reducing their dependence, and creating more opportunities for social interaction

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Amanda Jane Caroline Sharkey
University of Sheffield