Monday, September 21, 2009

Robot Nannies

Noel and Amanda Starkey have written a wonderfully comprehensive paper on the ethical challenges arising from the development of robotic caregivers for infants and children. While they are clearly critical of this prospect, the article is nuanced in its recognition of what we do and do not know about how sustained interaction with robotic caregivers might affect the psychological development of young children. The article entitled, The crying shame of robot nannies: an ethical appraisal, has been selected as a target article by the journal Interaction Studies and they are seeking commentaries. Readers of this blog can access the article online now. Those wishing to provide commentaries should contact Kerstin Dautenhahn at the University of Hertsfordshire. The abstract and then the request for commentaries follows.

Childcare robots are being manufactured and developed with the long term aim of creating surrogate carers. While total child-care is not yet being promoted, there are indications that it is on the cards. We examine recent research and developments in childcare robots and speculate on progress over the coming years by extrapolating from other ongoing robotics work. Our main aim is to raise ethical questions about the part or full-time replacement of primary carers. The questions are about human rights, privacy, robot use of restraint, deception of children and accountability. But the most pressing ethical issues throughout the paper concern the consequences for the psychological and emotional wellbeing of children. We set these in the context of the child development literature on the pathology and causes of attachment disorders. We then consider the adequacy of current legislation and international ethical guidelines on the protection of children from the overuse of robot care.

Dear colleagues,

For those of you interested in the use of robots in everyday environments, and specifically in the use of robots as toys, interaction partners or possible caretakers of children, or ethical issues involving human-robot interaction, the following target article and call for commentaries might be of interest:

The article The crying shame of robot nannies: an ethical appraisal by Noel Sharkey and Amanda Sharkey has been accepted as a target article to appear in 2010 in the journal Interaction Studies: Social Behaviour and Communication in Biological and Artificial Systems, published by John Benjamins Publishing Company (2008 Impact Factor: 1.359).

We are inviting commentaries (up to 2000 words) on this article, the abstract is included below and the final accepted version is available at:

Interaction Studies is an interdisciplinary journal and we invite commentaries from various viewpoints and disciplines.


If you intend to submit a commentary please contact the as soon as possible, stating your proposed title and (briefly) the key message that you would like to address in your commentary.

Submission of commentaries (to 31 October 2009 (PDF, up to 2000 words)

Notification: 20 November 2009
Final version of accepted commentaries to be submitted: 15 December 2009
Publication of target article and commentaries: Interaction Studies, volume 11, 2010

Kerstin Dautenhahn

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