C. Technology in support of green and social values
Within domains such as health care and education, governments need to introduce the right to meaningful human contact. People are entitled to the help, attention, and compassion of others when they need care. Conversely, caring for others is an essential element of what it means to be human. We cannot outsource that part of our humanness to robots and other forms of artificial intelligence – however empathetic they may be – unless the care recipients themselves prefer it for reasons of privacy or autonomy. With technological innovations in healthcare, it is important to make a sharp distinction between innovations that aim to replace human care and innovations that aim to improve, facilitate, and supplement human care.
Helping elderly people put on and take off their compression stockings is a care assignment that robots can take over from humans in the future, according to the advocates of care robotics. A robot for compression stockings could increase the self-reliance of elderly people living at home. However, for many older people, the daily visit by a home care worker who helps out with the stockings is also an opportunity for a chat. In the Dutch city of Zwolle, these home care workers are aptly named ‘chattersocks’. If municipalities or home care organisations impose a robot on elderly people, loneliness might increase.
The right to meaningful human contact must also apply at the government office. Every citizen has the right to access and make meaningful contact with the government in a way that is appropriate for him or her, both online and offline. This contact only qualifies as meaningful if it can lead to a change of (intended) government decisions regarding the citizen.