Brannigan references Sherry Turkle’s book, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Ourselves, a recently published book that explores the ever-changing degrees of human interaction in the digital world. The first half of Turkle’s book looks at the use of robots for companionship, care, and fun, and she spends a considerable amount of time describing the relationships between human-like robots and elder caregiving.
“Caring” robots elicit positive responses from patients, remain free from muddy domestic entanglements, offer relief for families and caregivers, and enable the elderly, sick and dying to feel wanted. With 13 percent of Americans now over 65 and the Census Bureau projecting nearly 20 percent by 2030, demand for human caregivers outstrips supply, whereas robots are dependable, without human demands.
What’s the harm, especially when human caregivers in health care institutions often “care” in robot-like ways? Would you prefer a human who seems not to care, or a robot that does? Is one reason we’re pulled to certain technologies the reality that human encounters are increasingly impersonal, disconsolate and downright uncivil?
Other parts of Turkle’s book focus on adolescents, parents, and most other adults, examining how all of our human interactions are changing (diminishing?) as a result of our electronic communication opportunities. Read the article.