A California family was outraged recently when their grandfather was told that he had very little time to live by a “robot”, or rather, what the media described as a robot. In fact, it was a teleconference screen mounted on a robot lectern. I don't suppose that the distinction makes much difference. The elderly man's children and grandchildren were horrified by the cold detachment of the procedure.
The hospital apologised, of course, but the incident is symptomatic of the impersonality which pervades our culture. Prodded on by our love affair with technology, human relations are being reduced to formal interactions. It may be overstating it to say that competence in face-to-face contact is a dying art — but something is changing. To have a dozen Facebook “friends”, for instance, is hardly the same as having a dozen friends.
But an even more — I was thinking of inserting the word “sinister” but I won't — application is the reduction of human sexuality to the twin and separable functions of recreation and reproduction. In an article below, British IVF pioneer Simon Fishel predicts that robots will handle the whole process of conception, from harvesting gametes to transferring embryos.
It seems to me that defending humane relationships will be one of the key challenges to bioethics in the coming decades.
Scientists are split
- How long can you put off seeing the doctor because of lockdowns? - December 3, 2021
- House of Lords debates assisted suicide—again - October 28, 2021
- Spanish government tries to restrict conscientious objection - October 28, 2021