Robot Care Ethics Between Autonomy and Vulnerability: Coupling Principles and Practices in Autonomous Systems for Care

Frontiers in Robotics and AI 8 (654298):1-11 (2021)
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Abstract

Technological developments involving robotics and artificial intelligence devices are being employed evermore in elderly care and the healthcare sector more generally, raising ethical issues and practical questions warranting closer considerations of what we mean by “care” and, subsequently, how to design such software coherently with the chosen definition. This paper starts by critically examining the existing approaches to the ethical design of care robots provided by Aimee van Wynsberghe, who relies on the work on the ethics of care by Joan Tronto. In doing so, it suggests an alternative to their non-principled approach, an alternative suited to tackling some of the issues raised by Tronto and van Wynsberghe, while allowing for the inclusion of two orientative principles. Our proposal centres on the principles of autonomy and vulnerability, whose joint adoption we deem able to constitute an original revision of a bottom-up approach in care ethics. Conclusively, the ethical framework introduced here integrates more traditional approaches in care ethics in view of enhancing the debate regarding the ethical design of care robots under a new lens.

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Steven Umbrello
Delft University of Technology
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