C. Technology in support of green and social values

16. Recognise the right to meaningful human contact. We cannot outsource the care for others to robots. Contact with citizens at the government office, both online and offline, must hold the potential to lead to changes in government decisions.

Within domains such as health care and education, governments need to introduce the right to meaningful human contact.[1] 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’.[2] 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.[3]

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Further viewing

Video: Social robots, a remedy against loneliness? Trailer of the documentary I am Alice.

Talk: Astrid Weiss, Will care robots care?


[1] See the Rathenau Institute's plea for new human rights for the robot age
[2] In Dutch: kletskousen
[3] "It is not a formal requirement (contact via paper or via human interaction), but a material requirement that the citizen is spoken to substantively and that contact is not limited to explanations but can lead to adjustment of intentions or actions – in other words, that the contact is meaningful – and that the citizen feels taken seriously and that the government actually helps him." Translated from the Dutch at: Raad van State

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Hilda Passchier

schrappen regel 6/7: unless the care recipients themselves prefer it for reasons of privacy. Als er niet aan ontwikkeling met robots of andere vormen van a.i. wordt gedaan op dit punt kunnen klanten dat ook niet vragen. Dit zet de deur open naar ongewenste ontwikkelingen.


@Hilda Passchier, geheel uitsluiten heeft als nadeel dat de privacy- en autonomiebevorderende kanten van robots en AI niet gebruikt worden. In ruime zin is privacy: iets doen zonder dat de buitenwereld daar weet van heeft. Robots en AI kunnen daarin bijvoorbeeld helpen door mensen uit bed te tillen of aan te kleden. Deze mensen kunnen nu gaan en staan waar zij willen, zonder dat iemand daar precies van weet.

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