Stage 8
Do Robots and Digitisation really fit the demands of an ageing society?


Demographic change is ongoing in countries like Germany and Japan, as a consequence, societies and health care systems need to adapt.
A possible solution to tackle this challenge of a super-ageing society might be digitalisation and robotics.
A look to Japan highlights concepts like society 5.0, but does this fit for the European countries as well?
Is it desirable from an ethical perspective, will it be accepted by the society and the citizens themselves?
We will discuss those issues in our panel discussion with regard to IoT and robotics in the field of elderly care.


In Germany as well as in Japan and most high-income and emergent economy countries increased lifespan of population has led to a high number of elderly people, with a need for prevention, daily assistance and care. This context requires conceptually new elderly care solutions, with the aim to support the decreasing percentages of the human-based care. Smart data and robot-based solutions for elderly care could possibly provide conditions for support that may lead to a better quality of life.

But ageing is not only an immediate personal issue but also a salient factor in crucial public policies, such as pensions, health and long-term care. There is a clear need to consider, what norms and values ought to be integrated into what kind of robotic solution and how an intended integration can be realized in design processes. Questions of this kind were asked earlier and with an ongoing progress in robotic development, but finding appropriate answers seems to get increasingly difficult.

Meanwhile robots are intended to be partners of social interaction in different contexts and situations of life, include elderly care. IEEE, pleading for an ethically aligned design of artificial intelligence and autonomous systems, pointed out that in the algorithmic age we have to “prioritize the increase of human wellbeing as our metric for progress” (IEEE 2016). For designing care robots this requirement is of particular importance since end-users have a special vulnerability.

Despite of the fact that robotic solutions have enormous potential, the needs for ethical legitimation of a targeted implementation into care systems should not get out of sight. There are still missing answers to various questions concerning socio-technical change, e.g. such regarding (data) privacy, and more ethical questions will reveal. The forthcoming challenges can only be mastered if all involved stakeholder work together at the same purposes.

For this reason, we have establised this panel in order to answer those questions together with the re:publica audience, and we invite you to what we believe will be a fruitful discussion of these emerging topics in future ICT and healthcare.