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Robot Caregivers

July 20, 2014

Fiction writers used to assume that robots would take us to the stars, or Antarctica, or other future adventures. But today the fastest growing use of robots may be that of caregivers for the elderly. Here in this NYT opinion, a physician argues that robots will be a good thing. Two kinds of robots–one, what you might expect, a robot that takes vital signs and is improbably named GiraffPlus. Another kind however is designed purely for “compassion.” Provides endless patience and limitless consideration, in the absence of that distantly located child with his/her own family.

The author argues that the time has come, and that companion robots will indeed be a good thing. We’ve already seen Robot and Frank, the infinitely self-sacrificing  robotic companion. Perhaps its work reflecting how far we want to go down this road? The physician suggests that, with our high geriatric ratio and our declining personal patience, the road already has no exit.

5 Comments
  1. July 20, 2014 10:14 pm

    Hi Joan, great post! I sent you an email with a question about it. Thanks!

  2. July 21, 2014 9:03 am

    I’d really rather human caregivers were hired.

    • July 21, 2014 9:08 am

      Yes, effective compassionate human caregivers would be ideal.
      But how do we address the points that:
      –The growing proportion of elderly requires a growing number of us caregivers.
      –Caregiving takes an enormous physical and mental toll on the caregiver. This was rarely acknowledged in the old days, when women had no option, just did it and shut up about it.
      –Caregiving is expensive (now that we pay a living wage with benefits).

  3. July 22, 2014 8:54 pm

    We’d all prefer human caregivers but, with so many of us getting older at the same time, there probably won’t be enough. I think just having a well trained AI which can react quickly to changes in status would be safe.

    And, I loved Robot and Frank. Frank Langella is a national treasure, one of the finest actors of our time.

  4. July 27, 2014 9:06 pm

    While a human caregiver would be preferred, in certain situations they are hurtful and neglectful. I think robotics would help dedicated caregivers do a better job and flush out the useless ones who are not really offering aid or compassion to elders. For elders who need minor assistance, a robot could be an affordable and viable option.

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