Future Issues

Increasing Autonomy of Robotic Systems

As technologies become more sophisticated, robots will be more humanlike, with smoother motions, more integrated functions, and anthropomorphic features that mimic humans closely. They will also have sophisticated decision-making capabilities. These features will begin to blur the distinction between care by humans and care by robots. Robot- based care with highly autonomous devices can reduce the autonomy of the person using the robot. The challenge is to balance the person’s goals and needs with the capabilities of the robotic systems to ensure that it is the functional independence of the person that is paramount, not just the capability of the robot.

Artificial Intelligence in Decision Making

The fidelity of care is also important as robots’ clinical decision-making capabilities increase. The meaning and scope of beneficence may also change, expand, or possibly contract as more autonomous robots play a more prominent role in the provision of rehabilitation assistance. Issues of nonmaleficence will be related not only to safety of the robots but also to the efficacy and safeguards built into the AI algorithms controlling the robots. Decisions made by and executed by an Al-controlled robot will not necessarily conform to standards of clinical practice as promoted by disciplines related to rehabilitants. This disconnect can lead to ethical dilemmas for the clinician and the consumer.

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