In order to provide companionship to elderly people who are stuck in isolation, University of Washington School of Medicine bioethicist Nancy Jecker suggests developing a new kind of sex robot.
Senior citizens are living longer but may lead lonelier, more isolated lives due to physical disabilities and especially the COVID-19 pandemic. In lieu of human interaction, The Seattle Times reports, Jecker is arguing that robots could provide the social and sexual companionship that’s missing from their lives — a departure from the raunchier way we often see sex robots.
Jecker published a paper Monday in the Journal of Medical Ethics in which she argues that providing companionship to senior citizens is a matter of personal dignity. She says a new type of robot that cares for seniors both sexually and emotionally — by holding hands, for instance, or having conversations — could make old less lonely.
“Designing and marketing sex robots for older, disabled people would represent a sea change from current practice,” Jecker wrote in her research. “The reason to do it is to support human dignity and to take seriously the claims of those whose sexuality is diminished by disability or isolation.”
There are ways that a robot companion could outperform humans, Jecker says, by providing sympathetic and patient support free of judgment and condescension around the clock.
“It relates to issues of dignity,” Jecker told the Times. “The ability to be sexual at any age relates to your ability to have a life. Not just to survive, but to have a life, and do things that have value. Relationships. Bodily integrity. These things are a matter of dignity.”
READ MORE: Sex robots: An answer for aging, lonely Americans in the age of AI? [The Seattle Times]
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