Can an AI-Carebot be Filial? Reflections from Confucian Ethics

Medical Humanities_2024-01-31
31 Jan 2024 11.00 AM - 12.00 PM Alumni, Current Students, Industry/Academic Partners, Prospective Students, Public
Organised by:
Michelle Chiang

This talk covers the application of artificially intelligent robots within eldercare and explores a series of ethical considerations, including the challenges that AI technology poses to traditional Chinese Confucian filial piety. This article first explains the potential advantages and limitations of AI robotic care. Then from the perspective of Confucian ethics, the paper argues that robots cannot adequately fulfill duties of care. Due to their detachment from personal relationships and interactions, the “emotions” of AI robots are merely performative reactions in different situations, rather than actual emotional abilities. No matter how “humanized” robots become, it is difficult to establish genuine empathy and a meaningful relationship with them for this reason. Finally, the paper discusses the social impact and ethical considerations brought on by the interaction between humans and machines. It is observed that the relationship between humans and technology has always had both utopian and dystopian aspects, and robotic elder care is no exception. AI caregiver robots will likely become a part of elder care, and the transformation of these robots from “service providers” to “companions” seems inevitable. In light of this, the application of AI-augmented robotic elder care will also eventually change our understanding of interpersonal relationships and traditional filial piety.

Dr Kathryn Muyskens is a Research Fellow with the Centre for Biomedical Ethics at the National University of Singapore. Her research there focuses on Asian Bioethics, Elder Care, and AI. Originally from Colorado in the U.S., she came to Singapore in 2015 to pursue her PhD in Philosophy from Nanyang Technology University, graduating in 2019. She is a political philosopher and applied ethicist by training, and has research interests in human rights, and healthcare justice, and cross-cultural bioethics, with particular interest in trust, information, and inequality in access to healthcare.