Rise of the Robots: Mechanical Empathy Too Risky?
The rapid developments of robotic technologies in the last twenty years have greatly encouraged research on the use of robots for surgery, diagnosis, rehabilitation, prosthetics, and assistance to the disabled and elderly. Whether they are helping surgeons with keyhole surgery, manufacturing medicine or assisting the elderly, it is clear that robots have left the realm of science fiction and have become a reality that may soon be coming to a home or a healthcare facility near you.
The planet’s population is set to exceed the 8 billion mark in 2025, and if humans stop reproducing, as demographics are showing, there will be insufficient staffing to care for the older generations. As the global population ages, the number of caregivers diminishes. Perhaps the solution is a technological one? One that fills the gap when needed with a workforce you can increase on demand and lay off just as easily. There are technological innovations almost ripe enough to help make up for the loss in care support.
This article provides an overview of robotic technologies and systems for health care, focusing on the various ethical problems that these technologies give rise to. These problems notably concern the protection of human physical and mental integrity, autonomy, responsibility, and fair access to medical resources. The issues of liability, safety standards, and trust are intrinsically linked to the acceptance and ultimate success of healthcare robotics. Robots not only fulfill tasks in eldercare but also in all other walks of life, freeing up time for those who are the motor of our society, financial system, and welfare.