AI And Growing Old In-Place
Written by Lucy Black   
Wednesday, 04 March 2015

Can AI and robotics help with one of our most serious social problems - the aging of the population. 

Caring for an aging population is a growing problem and it is tempting to think that there is a purely technological solution. Technology can't help with everything, but perhaps it can help keep more people in their own homes as they age. One of the videos in the recent  AAAI video competition puts forward some ideas that might help with "aging in place":



You see the problem?

Mr Elder, the person used as the example in the video needs only minor help. In this case, all that is needed is some monitoring and prompting to do things. This isn't so much managing the aging process as producing a safe environment for a person who is still capable of looking after himself.. 

What happens when the problem of mental deterioration and social isolation needs to be tackled? This short video trailer for the International Film Festive Rotterdam by Sander Burger explores the idea. In it a super Siri in the form of a robotic doll called Alice, is used to augment  the mental processing abilities of the aged. Alice seems to be more a pet in human form rather than a real AI assistant. 

 Watch to the very end or you won't get the full horror:


Is this type of initiative good?

I don't know but there is something very disturbing about the approach. When someone becomes attached to a pet as a substitute for human company the relationship is clear and clearly unequal. When someone becomes attached to an overgrown chatbot the relationship is based on an engineered dishonesty

The pet is what it seems but the chatbot is far less than it seems.

The robot carer we really need would require dexterity and strength to take care of the human's physical needs including meal preparation, making beds, providing mobility assistance and so on.  This is quite a few years away from being even slightly practical. 

Until then it seems that all we can have is monitoring systems and ersatz human companions.


More Information

International Film Festival Rotterdam 

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 04 March 2015 )