Should Robots Be Caregivers?

08 June 2018

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.

Comments (2)

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Sunday, June 10, 2018 -- 11:09 AM

Hmmmm. I wonder if the

Hmmmm. I wonder if the question, "It is ethical..." is somehow missing the point? Or, if not, where does this leave us with regard to the grandfather who was found a day after he died? Seems to me the bigger (and more immediate) question is: who was caring for the grandfather when he died, and why was his demise unnoticed for an entire day? Isn't an assisted living arrangement supposed to minimize such untimely deaths, and if so, where were the caregivers? Everyone dies. Deaths are, more-or-less, untimely, but convenience is not the issue either.

A L institutions are charged with providing assisted living care and are paid well for this service. I could fall and die at home, at great savings to my wife and family. Let's not confuse ethics with responsibility.Maybe my rotting corpse would even be discovered the same hour. Or at least within the ensuing eight. There is always already too much confusion about responsibility, A contract is still a contract...

Alyssa's picture


Tuesday, February 27, 2024 -- 11:35 AM

As a researcher in robotics

As a researcher in robotics and caregiving, the idea of robots as caregivers sparks complex ethical and practical considerations. While robots can offer assistance and companionship to the elderly spectrum business internet speeds and disabled, they lack the empathy and nuanced understanding essential for human caregiving. Striking a balance between innovation and ethical responsibility is crucial.

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