Child-education is a hard job, but somebody, or something has got to do it. A Japan Times article describes RoHo, a robotic care system, could be ready for full-scale implementation in 2018 (Aranca.com, 2018). The prospect of robots in childcare roles ranging from smart baby monitors to robot-tutors is basically contentious.
Our Debate is whether parents, engineers and companies need to take the main moral obligation to ensure that children growing up with robots can get a better education rather than misleading.
The ethical responsibility of a robot company
With the development of applied science, some simple family robots such as vacuum cleaners, smart ovens have been helping human for more than 30 years. And with the continuous development of artificial intelligence, many robot companies have been working on the educational robots already. This market is expected to grow at a CAGR of more than 21% by 2020 (Inc.,et al, 2018)
1.2 Robot development status
Now, robotics companies mainly put two types of robots into the market.
One is the assembled robot developed by Lego, which enables children to create and assemble different robots through their own creation.
On the one hand, it stimulates children’s creativity and hands-on ability. On the other hand, through Lego robot war, these robots can inspire children to get involved in computer science in their playing age.
The other type is the educational robot developed by Wonder Workshop, which combines kinds of learning apps to cultivate children’s interest in learning. In this way, children can learn knowledge spontaneously when they play the game.
- Combination of play and learning. – Edutainment
- Building confidence when accomplish the mission of the game using the knowledge. – Confidence-building
- Robots can store vast amount of knowledge and are available anytime and anywhere. – Easy to access. (NEVER STRIKE)
- Less effort and time would be needed to ‘manufacture’ robot teachers. – Cost effective.
1.4 Risk and Responsibility
The all advantages of robots will bring huge benefit to its producing company. However, the company and engineers shouldn’t pursue the maximization of profits without bearing in mind that the ensuring the high-quality of products and service are also crucial parts of their ethical responsibility.
For example, according to the report, the educational robot displayed at the China Hi-Tech fair in 2016 bruised onlookers behind him due to the program-operating problem(sohu.com, 2018). This is a safety issue caused by the negligence of product testing. It should be attributed to the company the its design engineers.
High-quality products and service will help the company broaden its markets by the good word of mouth. On the contrary, it may also bring crisis of confidence even ruin reputation in one night if something terrible happened, such as the personal data leaking of Facebook recently.
1.6 The Future of Robots
Although there are still unknown risks to educational robots, their development and application have become an irresistible trend. From a utilitarian perspective, the emergence of future education robots will benefit most people. This more efficient and cheaper method of education will spread further and affect more people.
In the future, robots may be able to replace teachers because they have a wealth of knowledge and can be rapidly updated. However, due to the uncontrollability of robots, this may also bring about unknown moral issues.
The Ethical Risk of a Robot Tutor
Because of financial instability and busy works, parents don’t have enough time to take care of their children. In school, teachers are often unable to focus on every conflict among students. Therefore, robot-tutors could be a good helper or even a replacement to figure out such problem effectively.
However, even though the emergence of robot in every aspect of daily life is an irresistible tendency, there are still several concerns around giving robots the power to education our offspring.
2.1 Mental Education Absence
What exactly effects will robot-tutors have on our kids’ growth if we really let them to mind our children? After all, they are just cold unfelling machine, and do not have the sensitivity or understanding necessary for kid-educate.
Therefore, we still need someone to look after child’s mental education even if we really introduce robots as the mainstream teachers in school or family. Because except for knowledge, children still need to form their worldviews, values and outlooks on life during their study, where the artificial intelligence is apparently helpless. And the robot teacher also cannot replace humankind’s ability to teach children how to understand and maintain the various, complex human relationship, which we usually call EQ and is viewed as an essential ability to the future success.
2.2 Human-Contact Loss
Nowadays, the robot’s reaction to human’s feelings with matching facial expression or verbal comment has been enhanced by its hi-tech sensors and programs. (Yamaoka et al. 2007).
So another problem arising as a serious consequence of this is the illusion of true emotion interaction. Some children may believe by mistake that the human-like machine is able to understand and care, which could in turn increase the loss of human contact. If an educational robot is presented as a friendly companion, the children might imagine that the robot cares about them. They may choose to spend time with the robot in preference to their less predictable human peers.
In other words, some of their social skills may be impeded by the lovely robot accompany.
Robots accurate reaction benefits from its advanced sensors. But the sensor robots use to interact with children is also equipped with the function to sense, process and record the world around them (Sharkey, 2016). The more information they collect about children, of course, the more customized education they can provide.
So the potential risk companying with the considerate machine is that can anyone be absolutely sure that the gathered information wouldn’t be stored or accessed by any bad people for bad purposes? The pervasive implication of robot in school may give rise to the concerns about whether the robot would act as a direct surveillance to the student’s life.
The prospect of the robot teacher is positive and irresistible. The robot teacher would be a good helper to cultivate human in their own effective way. As for total replacement of the real teacher, there is still a long way to go.