Machines will spoon-feed us in our dotage, but can they care?

Robots may be able to hold your hand but they cannot empathize. Are we comfortable with elderly care being left to machines?

The World Today
4 minute READ

Dr Noel Sharkey

Emeritus Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics nd Professor of Public Engagement, Universityof Sheffield

Dr Amanda Sharkey

Senior Lecturer, Department of Computer Science, University of Sheffield

Would you like to be left exclusively in the care of robots in your old age? Robots have been working in our factories, painting cars, assembling tiny components and mixing dangerous chemicals for decades. In the new era, service robots have begun working alongside humans in cleaning, medicine, farming and policing. Now robots are being given the intimate jobs of care and companionship for our elderly. Should we welcome such developments? Could a robot empathize and care for us in the way that a human could? Can we trust robots and robot manufacturers with such important and life-defining roles?

In a shrinking economy with a diminishing young workforce, there are concerns about how to care for an increasing elderly population. In Japan, where almost a third of the population is over 65, massive government funding has been ploughed into eldercare robotics. Western nations are looking at the possibilities and starting their own R&D.

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