With a plethora of Boomers hitting retirement, the elder care industry is working diligently in "designing the best robotic caretakers possible," machines that will help the elderly with toilet needs, taking them around or finding them if they get lost. Seniors aren't particularly welcoming of these robots. This isn't just an issue of feeling abandoned to the care of a programmed machine, but the impact it will have on the younger generations. Reportedly, seniors see the youngest generation as "hapless victims of new technologies, inexorably addicted to their gadgets and unable to carry out normal social interactions."
Amidst all this talk of tailoring robots specifically to different kinds of human interaction, beyond just task performance, its hard not to feel as though society is gradually devolving into an atomized, post-apocalyptic landscape where humans are closer to machines than their own species. In some ways, the thought seems to reinforce a haunting encroachment we can already feel. Are we really going to shove our grandma into the lifeless hands of some robot, too?
This thinking is not without its critics. Sherry Turkle, an MIT professor who studies the relationship between technology and society, is discomfited by the thought that a human, especially one plagued by decreasing mental faculties, could be convinced theyre having some genuine emotional exchange with a machine. In her studies of Paro, a Japanese baby seal robot designed to have a calming effect on patients with dementia, Alzheimers and in health care facilities, Turkle was troubled when she saw a 76-year-old woman share stories about her life with the robot, according to the New York Times.
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