As technology advances, intelligent systems involving artificial components are becoming more and more prevalent within the homes and environments of older adults. The benefits of such technology are uncontested, however, there are also social and ethical downsides to the increase of technology. It is important, therefore, to consider the problems that may arise from new technology and the ways in which these impacts can be combated and restricted.

One of the first issues regarding the use of AAL technology relates to the storage and use of data. In order to respond to an older adult’s needs efficiently and effectively, masses of data must be collated, stored and analysed. The positives of such data collection are that the end user receives a unique and smart solution to everyday problems, for example a system that can notify a loved one when a user has failed to take medication. However, on the other side there are issues involving privacy. Legislation has solved this issue somewhat, with the advent of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) stricter rules are now in place to protect the processing of European residents’ data. A full discussion of these issues can be found in Ana Ferreira’s Blog Post also on the ActiveAdvice webpage.

The second concern arising from technological advancements are the legal and regulatory issues relating to the ethics of smart or intelligent technology. The overriding nature of such concerns is reflected by the European Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs commission of a report on “European Civil Law Rules in Robotics”.[1] When a system has enough autonomy to make its own decision a moral and ethical dilemma emerges – who is legally responsible for the outcome of the decision? With a view to developments in robotics and artificial intelligence, the Committee on Legal Affairs deemed it time for the European Union to take action in respect of the legal and ethical issues raised by these new technologies. A simple example of this sort of dilemma in a modern setting is self-driving vehicles injuring someone. Another would involve the use of robots for the purpose of providing care and, in relation, administer life changing medical solutions. In tandem with legislation there also suggestions that checks and balances should be placed on AAL technology to assure that they are supporting people appropriately.[2] Huyck et al. stress the importance of a maintained dialogue between the users and the technology producers is fundamental as the majority of AAL technologies rely on people to have the final authority in regards to their functionality.[3]

Another noteworthy issue is the possibility of becoming overly reliant on AAL solutions for “peace of mind”. For example, when driving our cars we assume that the technology is ‘safe’ and will function ‘correctly’.[4] Although most of the time this will be true, this reliance could create overdependency on the specific functioning of a particular technology. Such strong reliance on a system guaranteeing safety, security and wellbeing could have severe impacts if the technology were to malfunction. This issue can be addressed by building in internal checks and balances and through the development of an ecosystem where continuous assessment and comparison of technology allows for safe guarding.

AAL technology is increasingly becoming relevant for older people. Whilst the increasing sophistication and development of these systems can cause issues, effective solutions lie both within the technical sphere and within the ecosystem of the users and developers of the product. It is vital for the development of such technologies that the flaws and underling issues of AAL are not ignored so they can be addressed, thereby offering older adults in need the most effective assistance.


Sources

[1] http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2016/571379/IPOL_STU(2016)571379_EN.pdf

[2] Christian Huyck et al, “Advancing Ambient Assisted Living with Caution”, https://www.springer.com/cda/content/document/cda_downloaddocument/9783319276946-c2.pdf?SGWID=0-0-45-1545144-p177840484

[3] Christian Huyck et al, “Advancing Ambient Assisted Living with Caution”, https://www.springer.com/cda/content/document/cda_downloaddocument/9783319276946-c2.pdf?SGWID=0-0-45-1545144-p177840484

[4] Christian Huyck et al, “Advancing Ambient Assisted Living with Caution”, https://www.springer.com/cda/content/document/cda_downloaddocument/9783319276946-c2.pdf?SGWID=0-0-45-1545144-p177840484


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