NewsUniversity of Twente

PhD Defense: Designing Robots with Care

On July 18 2012, Aimee van Wynsberghe defended her PhD thesis at Twente University. It was entitled: Designing Robots with Care. Abstract of the book:

This book begins by highlighting the range of positive and negative aspects 
associated with the initiative to design and use care robots. The positive
aspects vary from; the reality that care is required 24/7 and a human caregiver
cannot possibly meet such a standard, the reality that patients are abused
when in the care of others, the reality that current practices fail to meet the ideal
standard of care and the foreseen lack of healthcare personnel and resources to
meet ever increasing care needs of societies. When the actuality of a care robot
is discussed, however, many relevant ethical concerns are introduced. What will
the impact of the robot be on the provision of good care, on the manifestation
of care values; will it change the standards of care and ultimately lower them?
Will care robots displace and/or de-skill care workers? What will the existential
impact be on the care-giver and the care-receiver; is the use of robots a devaluing
of either or both? Given the strength of both arguments, however, it
is not possible to conclude rmly on either side of the debate. It is true that
when we describe care practices and think of a robot being integrated, it looks
better to have a human present. This does not, however, mean the human will
provide care according to the ideal.
Many scholars to date have discussed the positive and negative ethical issues
associated with the use of care robots and some have even suggested the need
for a framework to evaluate robots in general [Asaro, 2006] and care robots
in particular [Sharkey and Sharkey, 2012; Turkle, 2011]; however, none have
presented such a framework. The work of this thesis is to take up the challenge
of creating a framework not only for the ethical evaluation of current care robot
prototypes but to create a framework that can be used to steer the design process
of future care robots. As such, the research question guiding this work is as
follows: how can care robots used in care practices be designed and implemented
in a way that supports and promotes the fundamental values in care.

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