HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Sunday, May 28, 2023

A Critical Analysis of Consent in Human–Robot Interaction

Mona Naomi Lintvedt (University of Oslo), A Critical Analysis of Consent in Human–Robot Interaction, U. of Oslo Fac. of L. Working Paper 2023-01 (2023):

The use of advanced robots interacting with humans, especially in the health and care sector, will interfere with the personal autonomy and privacy of the users. A person can give permission to such interference by giving their consent. In law, the term ‘consent’ has different connotations dependent on the field of law and jurisdictions. A recurrent topic in robotics research is how consent can be implemented in human–robot interaction (HRI). However, it is not always clear what consent actually means. The terms ‘informed consent’ and ‘consent’ are used interchangeably with an emphasis on informational privacy, whereas the embodiment of robots also intervenes with ‘physical’ privacy. This lack of nuance leads to misconceptions about the role consent can play in HRI. In this chapter, I critically examine the perception and operationalisation of consent in HRI and whether consent is an appropriate concept at all. It is crucial for the adaptation of consent to understand the requirements for valid consent, and the implications consent have for deployment of robots, in particular in a health and care setting. I argue that valid consent to the use of AI-driven robots may be hard, if not impossible, to obtain due to the complexity of understanding the intentions and capabilities of the robot. In many instances, consent would not be appropriate in robotics because it would not be possible to have truly informed and free consent beyond a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. This chapter is a critical analysis which builds on the extensive scholarly critique of consent. As the chapter shows, robotics is yet another field where the shortcomings of consent are salient.

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