Designing Human-Robot Symbiosis

Name of applicant

Lasse Blond


DKK 695,918



Type of grant

Internationalisation Fellowships


More autonomous surgical-robots capable of undertaking parts of the surgical procedure are currently being constructed. Such robots blur the boundaries between humans and machines. It is expected that these new surgical robots will revolutionise the surgical procedure - ideally the combination of humans and robots will give rise to a "super surgeon". However, allowing robots to operate is not without risk. This project explores the values informing the design of surgical-robots in a specific empirical context, elucidating how the increasingly closer interaction between robots and humans are designed in practice, how risk, responsibility and intelligence get distributed between humans and machines, and how the surgeon's practice is rethought and changed as a result.


With its ethnographical approach to the study of the design of surgical-robots the project aims at providing a realistic and empirically based picture of the challenges and problems that preoccupy roboticists as well as clarifying their ideas about the arrangement of future healthcare practices. In this way the project is unique as it seeks to elaborate how notions about artificial intelligence (AI) and intelligence enhancement (IA) influence designs of human-robot interaction: to what extent the robots should be capable of operating on their own or rather supplement or increase human capabilities in the operating theatre. The project therefore seeks to contribute to ongoing discussions about the feasibility of replacing humans or making robotic systems designed for humans.


The research will be conducted in the United States, more specifically at Center for Automation and Learning for Medical Robotics (CAL-MR) at University of California, Berkeley, and will study how the next generation of surgical-robots are designed, conceived and constructed locally. The project will consist of a series of qualitative interviews with the roboticists, as well as participant observation (or laboratory study) at CAL-MR in order to gain an insight into the design practices, and discussions about potential usage and use practices. Furthermore, the project plans to observe and interview surgeons testing the surgical-robots to learn about how the collaboration with robots works out in real-life settings.

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