First, They Came for the Old and Demented: Care and Relations in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

23 Pages Posted: 24 Dec 2019

Date Written: November 27, 2019


Health care technology is all the rage, and artificial intelligence (AI) has long since made its inroads into the previously human-dominated domain of care. AI is used in diagnostics, but also in therapy and assistance, sometimes in the form of social robots with fur, eyes and programmed emotions. Patient welfare, working conditions for the caretakers, and cost-efficiency are routinely said to be improved by employing new technologies. The old with dementia might be provided with a robot seal, or a humanoid companion robot, and if these companions increase the happiness of the patients, why should we not venture down this road? Come to think of it, when we have these machines, why not use them as tutors in our schools, and caretakers for our children? More happiness reported, as our children are entertained, well-nourished, well-trained and never alone. Lovely and loving robots have also been made, and happiness abounds when these are provided to lonely adults. Happiness all around, and a hedonistic heaven – the utilitarian's dream, as both reported, or measured, well-being reaches all-time highs. But there is reason to be wary of this development. The logic that allows this development ultimately leads to the conclusion that we would all be best off if we could simply be wired to a computer that provided us with whatever we needed to feel perfectly satisfied. The care-giving machines are here. First, they came for the old and demented, and then they came for the rest of us. Unless we say stop, and argue in favour of inviolable individual rights to be treated with respect and not to be deceived.

Keywords: care, AI, social robots, deception, hedonism, ethics, utilitarianism

Suggested Citation

Sætra, Henrik Skaug, First, They Came for the Old and Demented: Care and Relations in the Age of Artificial Intelligence (November 27, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Henrik Skaug Sætra (Contact Author)

Østfold University College ( email )

HALDEN, 1757

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