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Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology

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published on December 3, 2019

Arto Laitinen, Marketta Niemelä, Jari Pirhonen

Demands of Dignity in Robotic Care
Recognizing Vulnerability, Agency, and Subjectivity in Robot-based, Robot-assisted, and Teleoperated Elderly Care

Having a sense of dignity is one of the core emotions in human life. Is our dignity, and accordingly also our sense of dignity under threat in elderly care, especially in robotic care? How can robotic care support or challenge human dignity in elderly care? The answer will depend on whether it is robot-based, robot-assisted, or teleoperated care that is at stake. Further, the demands and realizations of human dignity have to be distinguished. The demands to respect humans are based on human dignity and the inalienable high and equal moral standing that everyone has. For human moral agents, these demands take the form of negative and positive duties. For robots, they arguably take the form of corresponding ought-to-be norms. The realizations of dignity consist in variable responses to these demands, by oneself by others, and by society at large. This article examines how robot-based, robot-assisted, and teleoperated care can amount to realizations of dignity. The varieties of robotic care can, in different ways, be responsive to the demands of dignity and recognize humans as vulnerable beings with needs, as autonomous agents, and as rational subjects of experience, emotion, and thought.

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