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Published: 2024-05-13

AI and Kinship – can a robot be family?

NEWS An aging population, declining fertility, and birth rate – society is facing a range of demographic challenges. At the same time, artificial intelligence (AI) is increasingly present in issues related to health, care and love. But can a robot be family? The research project AI and Kinship analyses how artificial intelligence is a part of family formations in speculative fiction.

“The project will contribute to our ability to think critically and coherently about the roles that we want AI to play in society. The analysis can help us understand how we make sense of contemporary challenges in terms of kinship and care practices, and what possible options we can imagine AI posing in the future,” says Berit Åström, Head of Project at the Department of Language Studies.

The analysis can help us understand how we make sense of contemporary challenges in terms of kinship and care practices, and what possible options we can imagine AI posing in the future

Pushes at borders between human and non-human

Close relationships act as a social, legal and emotional web in society. At the same time, AI is emerging as an increasingly central technology in our daily lives, including health and social care, where family members often play a crucial role. For example, kinship and close relationships regulate who has caring responsibilities for a child and who can make life-changing decisions for another person.

“As developments in AI research pushes at borders between human and non-human, there is an urgent need to engage with potential possibilities and problems of such developments. The project is in its early stages, where we have finished a pilot study. In this study we have analysed android mothers on film and television and what they can tell us about parenting, artificial reproduction and who counts as a human. Our next step is to look at narratives of androids as carers in, for example, dementia care."

The project will use kinship studies to analyse the stories. The concept of kinship can refer to biological kinship but also to a socio-cultural construct that identifies relationships between individuals and beings. Berit has previously researched the representation of mothers in cartoons, TV, counselling literature, crime literature, science fiction and early modern texts.

Read more about the project AI and Kinship

Contact

Berit Åström
Associate professor
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