AI Meets Ethics

(How) Can Companion Carebots Help Us Flourish?

September 20, 2023, 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm

Speaker: Dr. Madeleine Ransom, Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, Philosophy, and Political Science, UBC Okanagan

Title: (How) Can Companion Carebots Help Us Flourish?

Abstract: Loneliness is widespread in our society, and in particular amongst the elderly population. Companion carebots have been offered as a potential solution, but have also been met with criticism. It has been argued that companion carebots diminish the wellbeing of the elderly because they deceive patients into wrongly believing that they have entered into a friendship or companionship with beings incapable of providing these relationships. In this talk I critically review the argument for this claim. While I ultimately conclude that companion carebots do indeed pose a significant risk to elder wellbeing, I will also argue that the risk can be met through embracing a human flourishing approach to AI design. On this approach, companion carebots (and other AI systems) should be designed with two overarching values: facilitating and enhancing (i) quality human-to-human interaction and (ii) autonomy. I conclude by considering whether and when these two values may conflict.

BioMadeleine is a philosopher who works on perceptual learning and expertise. She is interested in understanding how perceptual learning differs from other forms of learning, and how it contributes to human expertise in many domains. In her research she also focuses on understanding how perceptual learning can go wrong and cause expert judgments to be biased in some way.    


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