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Tech Ethics for Developers: Ethical Challenges in Designing for Elderly End Users

by Alexis Elder

While emerging technologies are often associated with young people and youthfulness, this overlooks an important issue: what happens when emerging technologies interact with seniors. Evidence suggests that people over 65 play a disproportionate role in the spreading of misinformation online. Caregiving robots are often intended to assist with or offset human work in geriatric care. And while it is tempting to treat older generations as wise and moderate, past the tempestuous stages of youth and possessing valuable life experience upon which to draw, they also present a variety of ethical challenges.This dark side of aging and technology deserves more attention, as seniors increasingly adopt emerging technologies, either voluntarily, as in the case of social media, where they represent one of the most rapidly growing demographics, and via healthcare and therapeutic concerns of family, medical providers and caregivers. How can or should these technologies account for elderly users, and what special problems arise because of it? In this session, I introduce some key aspects of Confucian ethics to develop a framework for articulating and addressing these issues. (Don't worry, no background in philosophy necessary - I won't assume familiarity with this philosophical tradition!)

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Alexis Elder

I'm a philosopher at the University of Minnesota Duluth, specializing in tech ethics, especially those arising at the intersection of interpersonal relationships and social technologies. I've published on topics from chatbots that imitate the dead, to the ethical significance of emoji, to geriatric-care robots. My first book, Friendship, Robots, and Social Media: False friends and second selves, just came out in paperback from Routledge.


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