Sociable Robots for Later Life: Carebots, Friendbots and Sexbots

In Ruiping Fan & Mark J. Cherry (eds.), Sex Robots: Social Impact and the Future of Human Relations. Springer. pp. 25-40 (2021)
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This chapter discusses three types of sociable robots for older adults: robotic caregivers ; robotic friends ; and sex robots. The central argument holds that society ought to make reasonable efforts to provide these types of robots and that under certain conditions, omitting such support not only harms older adults but poses threats to their dignity. The argument proceeds stepwise. First, the chapter establishes that assisting care-dependent older adults to perform activities of daily living is integral to respecting dignity. Here, the argument establishes the vital role that carebots-of-the-future might play in aged societies as the supply of working age adults falls shy of demand. Next, the chapter extends this analysis to designing friendbots for socially isolated older adults. The argument holds that reasonable efforts to provide access to friendbots for socially isolated adults is also a future societal responsibility. Finally, the chapter applies similar reasoning to show that societies ought to make reasonable efforts to support sexual capabilities for older adults who want to be sexual but are bereft of sex partners. The argument draws on capability accounts of justice to show that when central human capacities, such as bodily integrity; intimate relationships; and the use of senses, imagination and thought, are at risk of falling below a threshold level, society should intercede.

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Nancy Jecker
University of Washington


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