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Rather than jump to robotic substitutes, we could think of other ways to sate society’s growing need for workers who care for the elderly, such as revaluing the work involved.
“If the human rights of the elderly are to be respected as much as the rights of other members of society, it is important to ensure that robots introduced into elder care do actually benefit the elderly themselves, and are not just designed to reduce the care burden on the rest of society,” write Sharkey and Sharkey.Or, as one person put it recently in , being left with a carebot is just “another way of dying even more miserably”.There’s another reason that carebots might not sit comfortably with us: they don’t jive with our flattering visions of ourselves. It’s physically and emotionally taxing, occasionally messy, and can be boring and thankless. There’s an expectation that this work is a kind of calling, performed out of love or a sense of service by a friend or family member, or at least a compassionate and conscientious worker. In elderly care homes in the US, people are more likely than in the wider community to be subjected to emotional and physical abuse or neglect – one in 10, according to some reports.What mistakes will be acceptable, and which will be grounds for a recall? Or will their charges have to submit to their power?In the paper “Granny and the Robots”, Amanda Sharkey and Noel Sharkey at the University of Sheffield, UK, point out another drawback to life with a robo-caretaker: it’s lonely.
However, in difficult moments they flip the script – asking us to relinquish control, human connection and our fantasies about ourselves.