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Social Robots Through the Lens of Care Ethics



Technical University of Delft (NL)


Aimee van Wynsberghe is an Associate Professor in Ethics and Technology at TU Delft in the Netherlands. Aimee is scientific director of the TPM AI lab, co-director of the Foundation for Responsible Robotics and serves as a member of the European Commission's High-Level Expert Group on AI. She is a 2018 L'Oreal Unesco 'For Women in Science' laureate and a fellow at the Deloitte Centre for the Edge. She has been named one of the Netherlands top 400 influential women under 38 by VIVA in 2017 and 2019, and was named one of the 25 ‘women in robotics you need to know about’. She is author of the book Healthcare Robots: Ethics, Design, and Implementation.


This paper provides an analysis of social robots from a care ethics perspective, with relationality and reciprocity at the center. By investigating the impact of social robots on relational reciprocity I suggest a specific kind of deception; humans are deceived into believing that the robot is deserving of reciprocity by the robot’s appearance of responsiveness. Addressing the impact of social robots on reciprocity as a political ideal, the risk identified is a re-direction of resources from humans towards robots; social robots may threaten the ability to reciprocate to, and further may weaken the incentive to give back to, care workers.