Socially Assistive Robots in Aged Care: Ethical Orientations Beyond the Care-Romantic and Technology-Deterministic Gaze

Science and Engineering Ethics 27 (2):1-20 (2021)
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Abstract

Socially Assistive Robots are increasingly conceived as applicable tools to be used in aged care. However, the use carries many negative and positive connotations. Negative connotations come forth out of romanticized views of care practices, disregarding their already established technological nature. Positive connotations are formulated out of techno-deterministic views on SAR use, presenting it as an inevitable and necessary next step in technological development to guarantee aged care. Ethical guidance of SAR use inspired by negative connotations tends to be over-restrictive whereas positive connotations tend to provide over-permissive guidance. To avoid these extremes, we report on the development and content of 21 ethical orientations regarding SAR use in aged care. These orientations resulted from a multi-phased project, which consisted of empirical-ethical research focusing on older adults’ intuitions regarding SAR use and philosophical-ethical research focusing on philosophical-ethical argumentations regarding SAR use. This project led to the Socio-historical contextualization of the ethics of SAR use, in which the ethical impact of SAR use is localized on three interrelated analysis levels: societal, organizational, and individual-relational. The 21 novel orientations regarding SAR use are structured according to these levels and further categorized into foundational and applied orientations. The first category leads to critical reflection on SAR use while the latter category inspires decision-making processes regarding this use. While going beyond the care-romantic and techno-deterministic gaze of SAR use in aged care, the described orientations balance themselves between their over-restrictiveness and over-permissiveness.

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