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Robot Ethics 2.0From Autonomous Cars to Artificial Intelligence$
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Patrick Lin, Keith Abney, and Ryan Jenkins

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190652951

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190652951.001.0001

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Robot Friends for Autistic Children

Robot Friends for Autistic Children

Monopoly Money or Counterfeit Currency?

Chapter:
(p.113) 8 Robot Friends for Autistic Children
Source:
Robot Ethics 2.0
Author(s):

Alexis Elder

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780190652951.003.0008

Robots seem to have great therapeutic value for patients with autism spectrum disorders. But their usefulness derives from a potentially problematic source: their appealingly friendly presence, which can lead patients to think of them as friends, or even to prefer their companionship to that of human beings. In this chapter, an analogy between false friends and counterfeit currency is leveraged to explore a potential moral hazard posed by these therapeutic robots. An objection from the subjective nature of the value of friendship is raised, and refuted by an appeal to the importance of cultivating social capabilities. I conclude that the moral hazard can be mitigated by careful design and responsible use, and that these therapies offer genuine promise. But I argue that we must tread with caution when using robots in therapeutic applications where the appearance of friendship is liable to arise.

Keywords:   robots, autonomous, friends, autism spectrum disorder, Siri, false friend, robotic therapy, social isolation, capability theory

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