Call: Robot & Gran: Would You Leave Your Ageing Parent or Grandparent in the Care of a Robot? (Free symposium)

There is still opportunity to reserve your free place at this exciting afternoon symposium:


Wednesday 25th March 2015, 3:30pm
Committee room 3, House of Lords
Palace of Westminster
United Kingdom

This event is kindly hosted by Lord McColl of Dulwich

For the first time in history, there are 11 million people aged 65 or over in the UK with 3 million people aged 80 or over. By 2050, estimates predict that the elderly will account for 16 percent of the global population.

Research suggests that about three-quarters of elderly people will develop a social care need, which can include anything from help getting up in the morning to round-the-clock support in a residential home. The number of younger, disabled adults is also predicted to rise, as medical advances mean many people with disabilities are living longer. Providing the most appropriate and effective forms of care (physically, emotionally and mentally) for these people will present an enormous challenge, so much so it is anticipated that there will be a shortage of professionals who are trained, equipped and willing to take on the responsibility.

It is increasingly likely that robots and artificial intelligence (AI) assisted appliances will take on the part of the role of care providers including meeting practical care needs, providing round-the-clock support and even providing a form of companionship.

Films such as Robot and Frank have helped us begin to imagine what the future could look like. Part of the inspiration behind the film came from Japan which currently has one of the world’s largest robot markets worth about 860bn yen (£5bn) in 2012. As the country’s demographic shifts to a much older population, compounded all the more by a falling birth rate, there will be increased demand for workers, especially in the care industry. Over 22 per cent of Japan’s population is currently aged 65 or older and many companies are working on robots that can assist the elderly, ranging from those which offer therapeutic care to those which can help move and carry objects. Within the next 20 years it is increasingly likely that robots will be used in the care of older adults throughout the developed world.   This is a striking technological and social development with widespread but poorly understood implications for the society as a whole.

The optimum future is one in which the use of robotics will help older people live safer, healthier, more fulfilled and more connected lives. But the possible social, psychological and relational consequences of replacing human care with care provided by intelligent machines, particularly machines that are capable of simulating human emotional responses, are unknown. It is critically important that the psychological, philosophical and spiritual implications are considered and debated before robotic care assistants become ubiquitous.

Join us as we begin to explore and discuss this crucial question affecting the future of humanity.

  • What are the key ethical and social issues which should be shaping the agenda concerning the future use of artificial intelligence and robotics in the care of the older person?
  • How does this potentially impact upon the ‘specialness’ of human life and human identity?
  • How do you keep the human more important than the technology or is that becoming less important?


  • PROF NOEL SHARKEY – Emeritus Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, Professor of Public Engagement, University of Sheffield
  • Dr. HEIKE FELZMANN – Lecturer in Ethics, Centre for Bioethical Research and Analysis, National University of Ireland (NUI) Galway; Part of the EU H2020 project (MARIO) on assistive robotics for elderly with dementia.
  • PROF NIGEL CAMERON – CEO of Center for Policy on Emerging Technologies; Executive Chairman of BioCentre

The event will consist of short speaker presentations followed by panel Q&A.

The event is FREE to attend but RSVPs are required. To register visit:


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