Would you want to be cared for by a robot? Michael C. Brannigan’s Caregiving, Carebots, and Contagion explores caring robots’ lifesaving benefits, particularly during contagion, while probing the threat they pose to interpersonal engagement and genuine human caregiving. As our COVID-19 purgatory lingers on, caring robots will join our nursing and healthcare frontlines. Carebots can perform lifesaving tasks to minimize infection, safeguard vulnerable persons, and relieve caregivers of certain burdens. They also spark profound moral and existential questions: What is caring? How will we relate with each other? What does it mean to be human?
Underscoring carebots' hands-on benefits, Brannigan also warns us of perils. They can be a dangerous lure in a culture that settles for substitutes and venerates the screen. Alerting us to the threatening prospect of carebots becoming our surrogate for interpersonal connection, he maintains they are not the culprits. The challenge lies in how we relate to them. While they beneficially complement our caregiving, carebots cannot replace human caring. Caring is a fundamentally human act and lies at the heart of ethics. As humans, we have a binding moral responsibility to care for the Other, and genuine caring demands our embodied, human-to-human presence.
Michael C. Brannigan is adjunct professor of intercultural bioethics at Albany Medical College and adjunct professor of philosophy at Salve Regina University.
Introduction: Then, Now, and To Come
Chapter 1: Are Robots Made for This?
Chapter 2: Promise
Chapter 3: Peril
Chapter 4: What Is in a Face?
Chapter 5: Poise
About the Author
"This book builds an essential bridge between bioethics, care, and technology. In this insightful and inspiring reflection on human beings and their environment, Brannigan invites his readers to reflect on the meaning of care in the technological world. Hence, this brilliant book invites specialists, scholars, health care professionals and the large audience to question the meaning of bioethics today and to revise its structure in theory and practice in order to be able to provide care for the present and future society. It is a must read."
"Michael Brannigan is one of our leading commentators on healthcare policy and ethics. In this fascinating but compassionate work, he begins with the failure to protect the elderly in nursing homes during COVID-19. He considers what the future of caring might be like and to what extent we can look forward to a new order of caring robots or carebots. Brannigan is well-informed about these issues, and his book thinks through some of the future possibilities of healthcare. But more than anything else, he offers us a timely meditation on the nature of caring as our 'most noble human vocation.'"
"This is a fantastic book! One rarely finds serious issues handled in such an eloquent, lucid, and engrossing way. Insightful, far-sighted, and cogently argued, Brannigan's book is a must for everyone interested in our uses of AI, robots, and the future of medicine, as well as how we define our shared humanity."
Dr Brannigan, philosopher extraordinaire in various senses and expert of things bio(un)ethical, takes us on a guided tour of the mind, body and spirit – which, in his view, can hardly be separated – of humans, and of robots. Reading this love story about humans and their carebots – possibly not through a carelessly chosen screen interface, like I did – is, in my humble human opinion, highly recommended.
COVID-19 started an ongoing discussion about protecting health care workers and patients during a pandemic. Brannigan (Albany Medical College) contributes to this discussion by exploring the future of health care and offering insight about the benefits of adding caring robots—carebots—to the existing arsenal of health care workers and tools…. This book has potential to energize the post-COVID-19 discussion and inspire thoughtful reflection on bioethics and current policy among future health care workers and others preparing to become caregivers. Students could draw arguments both for and against employing carebots and redefine their views of the moral responsibility to care for others. This is a must read for anyone interested in AI and the future of medicine. Highly recommended. All readers.
"Caregiving, Carebots, and Contagion" is engaging, provocative, and accessible reading, especially for such a complex topic. In addition to the concerns Brannagan raises, here is another: what if carebots become scalable throughout healthcare? What if they are shown to be a viable economic way to care for the needs of the millions of patients, in both hospitals and long-term care settings, in coming years? Will economic incentives drive their use-to manage the shortage of healthcare workers and their demands for higher pay-making the problems he explores even more acute? Overall, this book is a timely contribution that demands our attention as we face the confluence of innovations in artificial intelligence, contagion, and a burgeoning shortage of caregivers. It will help us focus on who we are and what we expect from care giving.