After completing my Honours undergraduate degree in Cell Biology at the University of Western Ontario, Canada (2006), I attended the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, for a Masters in Applied Ethics (2006-08). Following this, I completed an Erasmus Mundus Masters in Bioethics. My focus for the past two years has been on the ethical implications of novel technologies in healthcare and their impact on the patient-physician relationship. In particular, the introduction of surgical robots and long distance robotic surgery (telesurgery) as well as telepsychiatry.
In August 2008 I joined the Department of Philosophy at the University of Twente as a PhD student working on the project: Carebots and the Good Life; an anticipatory ethical analysis of human-robot interaction in care contexts.
With an increase in the average life expectancy and the retiring baby boom generation there will be considerable repercussions on healthcare systems, resources and societies in general. Robots, along with intelligent systems and telecommunications, are seen as a way of overcoming limitations to ensure the best quality of life possible for aging populations. Carebots may be considered any personal or social robot living with an individual capable of fulfilling various “caring tasks”. The focus of the work will involve the concept of care, whether or not a robot can provide care and how this may contribute (or not) to one’s ideal of the good life.
Impossible as it is to predict all the consequences when introducing a new technology, there is still much to be gained by exploring current societal values and how they may be impacted. Currently, human-robot interactions are structured according to human-human interactions which invites the potential for meaningful interaction between humans and their robot companions. Is there something morally wrong with this – deceiving people into thinking they can foster meaningful interaction with a carebot – or is it the logical next step in a technological world? Will it be possible to become friends with your personal robot? This implies the belief that we may fashion meaningful interactions between humans and robots/artificial intelligence and further that the reciprocal element in friendship is not necessary. What implications will this have on future generations and the formation of friendships? Already we can see how the internet may be used to foster friendships but are these equivalent with in-person friendships or is something lacking? What counts as meaningful interaction between friends or people for that matter and what role do meaningful interactions play in the question of the good life?
Scientific publications (selection)
- Van Wynsberghe, A., Gastmans, C. Telepsychiatry and the meaning of in-person contact: an ethical appraisal. Journal of Medical Ethics, (under review).
- A. van Wynsberghe and M. Nagenborg (2016): Civilizing drones by design. In: E. Di Nucci & F. Santoni de Sio (eds.): Drones and responsibility: legal, philosophical and socio-technical perspectives. London and New York: Routledge, pp. 148-166.
- Wynsberghe (2012). Designing Robots With Care: creating an ethical framework for the future design and implementation of care robots. PhD dissertation Twente University available online
- Van Wynsberghe, A., and C. Gastmans. 2008. Telesurgery: an Ethical Appraisal. Journal of Medical Ethics 34 (22). available online
- R, Rayman, Croome K, Galbraith N, and A Van Wynsberghe. 2007. Robotic Telesurgery: A real world comparison of ground and satellite based internet performance. International Journal of Medical Robotics and Computer Assisted Surgery 3 (2):111-116. available online
- R, Rayman, Croome K, Galbraith N, and A Van Wynsberghe. 2006. Long Distance Telesurgery. A Feasibility Study for Care in Remote Environments. International Journal of Medical Robotics and Computer Assisted Surgery 2 (3):216-224. available online
- R, Rayman, Croome K, Galbraith N, and A Van Wynsberghe. 2005. Effects of Latency on Telesurgery: An Experimental Study. Computer Science 3750:57-64. available online