Caring robots

In the last two decades there has been significant reform in terms of what governments do, and how they work, as a result of the digital revolution. In some areas, governments have embraced these technologies and worked to enhance their effectiveness and efficiency.

However, there have also been many cautionary tales of what can go wrong when technologies are inappropriately adopted or unintended consequences have emerged as a result of introducing disruptive innovations.

This report focuses on one particular area of technological development – robots – and their governance. It explores the roles that robots should and, even more critically, should not play in care delivery, and the role that government has as a steward in shaping these roles.

An output from the ANZSOG-funded project ‘Robots and the delivery of care services: What is the role for government in stewarding disruptive innovations?’ ((Dickinson, H., Smith, C., Carey, N. and Carey, G. (2018) Robots and the delivery of care services: What is the role for government in stewarding disruptive innovation? Melbourne: ANZSOG. ))

Robots and the delivery of care services

What is the role for government in stewarding disruptive innovation?

The ways that care was spoken about in this project seems largely to be consistent with that put forward in the ethics of care literature (Tronto 1993). An important facet of an ethics of care perspective is that it does not view care as something that is simply done to individuals, but as a reciprocal practice. When interviewees discussed a number of robots they told us that a crucial part of their use was the relationship developed between the individual and the robot. (p. 26)

Individuals gained positives from these interactions because of the reciprocal relationship they developed with the robot. Interviewees also raised possibilities about the impact that robots might have on existing relationships (for both good and bad). The majority of those we interviewed argued that humans are essential to care relationships and that the use of robotics should not be as a replacement. (p. 26)

The research points to the need for governments to play a more active and considered role in robotic technology – from development through to implementation and regulation. (p. 28)

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