Articles  |    |  November 1, 2020

The foundations of a policy for the use of social robots in care

Article by Henrik Skaug Sætra.
Published in Technology in Society.


Should we deploy social robots in care settings? This question, asked from a policy standpoint, requires that we understand the potential benefits and downsides of deploying social robots in care situations. Potential benefits could include increased efficiency, increased welfare, physiological and psychological benefits, and experienced satisfaction. There are, however, important objections to the use of social robots in care. These include the possibility that relations with robots can potentially displace human contact, that these relations could be harmful, that robot care is undignified and disrespectful, and that social robots are deceptive. I propose a framework for evaluating all these arguments in terms of three aspects of care: structure, process, and outcome. I then highlight the main ethical considerations that have to be made in order to untangle the web of pros and cons of social robots in care as these pros and cons are related the trade-offs regarding quantity and quality of care, process and outcome, and objective and subjective outcomes.


  • To evaluate the use of social robots the author distinguishes between quality of care as structure, process and outcome.
  • The importance of distinguishing between outcome and process, and between objective and subjective outcomes, is emphasised.
  • Making philosophical assumptions explicit are essential for policy formation on the issue of social robots in care.