We sometimes think of the domains of ethics and morality as divorced from feeling and emotion. You keep your promises because it maximizes good.
I was delighted to learn that my native country, Ireland, now has a competition called the Irish Young Philosopher Awards. This year's inaugural competition awared the "Young Philosopher of the Year" prize to 16-year-old Luke Rickard, whose project was "Is it ethical for robots to be caregivers?”
Irish President Michael D. Higgins, who awarded the prize to Luke, is a vocal advocate for introducing philosophy into schools in Ireland. He expressed hope the the annual Young Philosopher Awards will become as big as the Young Scientist competition.
In this interview with Luke, he explains that the inspiration for his project came when his ailing grandfather fell in the middle of the night and was unable to reach the help button in his assisted living facility. He was found dead a day later. Luke wondered how the presence of a care robot might have changed the outcome for his grandfather.
Although Luke sees an important role for robot caregivers in the future, especially as the elderly population increases, he believes robots can never fully replace humans in this role because they cannot provide that essential "human touch" and connection.
To learn more about the IYPA and Luke's winning project, you can read the interview with him here:
Do you think Luke is right that robots could never provide something like "human touch"? Or is this simply a matter of design?
Also, tune into this week's show on the ethics of care. We probably won't be talking about robot caregivers, but we will be discussing other ethical aspects of caregiving.