What Makes AI ‘Intelligent’ and ‘Caring’? Exploring Affect and Relationality Across Three Sites of Intelligence and Care

Giulia De Togni (Lead Author), Sonja Erikainen, Sarah Chan, Sarah Cunningham-Burley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This paper scrutinises how AI and robotic technologies are transforming the relationships between people and machines in new affective, embodied and relational ways. Through investigating what it means to exist as human ‘in relation’ to AI across health and care contexts, we aim to make three main contributions. (1) We start by highlighting the complexities of philosophical issues surrounding the concepts of “artificial intelligence” and “ethical machines.” (2) We outline some potential challenges and opportunities that the creation of such technologies may bring in the health and care settings. We focus on AI applications that interface with health and care via examples where AI is explicitly designed as an ‘augmenting’ technology that can overcome human bodily and cognitive as well as socio-economic constraints. We focus on three dimensions of ‘intelligence’ - physical, interpretive, and emotional - using the examples of robotic surgery, digital pathology, and robot caregivers, respectively. Through investigating these areas, we interrogate the social context and implications of human-technology interaction in the interrelational sphere of care practice. (3) We argue, in conclusion, that there is a need for an interdisciplinary mode of theorising ‘intelligence’ as relational and affective in ways that can accommodate the fragmentation of both conceptual and material boundaries between human and AI, and human and machine. Our aim in investigating these sociological, philosophical and ethical questions is primarily to explore the relationship between affect, relationality and ‘intelligence,’ the intersection and integration of ‘human’ and ‘artificial’ intelligence, through an examination of how AI is used across different dimensions of intelligence. This allows us to scrutinise how ‘intelligence’ is ultimately conveyed, understood and (technologically or algorithmically) configured in practice through emerging relationships that go beyond the conceptual divisions between humans and machines, and humans vis-à-vis artificial intelligence-based technologies.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Science & Medicine
Early online date23 Mar 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Mar 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Artificial intelligence
  • Robotics
  • Health and social care
  • Policy


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