Published 11 August 2021

Summer School Spotlight: Isobel Standen

Tell us a little bit about yourself 

I have just finished my undergraduate degree in Philosophy at the University of York after completing my dissertation on the moral consequences of discrimination in facial recognition systems.

My research interests broadly include the ethics of Artificial Intelligence; I have explored topics such as trust (How much should we trust computer systems? Are they more or less trustworthy than humans?), surveillance (Where does surveillance stop being for security and start being a way of controlling people?) and algorithmic discrimination (Is it possible to eliminate harmful discrimination from AI systems?).

I am currently undertaking an internship with YorRobots within the Computer Science department at the University of York in which I am evaluating the safety and efficacy of surgical robotics.

Other than working I love travelling when I can and hopefully once lockdown restrictions ease I will be able to explore more countries!

Why did you apply to join the YorRobots summer school?

Now is a really exciting time to be researching AI and robotics as the development of increasingly sophisticated technology means it is essential to evaluate the potential risks of their deployment.

I am looking forward to applying what I’ve learnt throughout my philosophy degree to something so new and exciting, and the experience I hope to gain from this internship will not only help me to find a job (hopefully!) but it will allow me to continue exploring a topic which really fascinates me. 

Tell us a little about the project you’re working on

My YorRobots internship is focused on surgical robotics and I will be looking into the current risks posed by these systems, such as patients being injured when the robot fails to respond sufficiently to the surgeon's directions. I will also be researching the future of robotic surgery; if these systems become more autonomous this could help to relieve the pressure placed on surgeons who can use the robots to assist them with strenuous tasks. However, this also means that the surgeon has less control over the robot, potentially making it more difficult to intervene if something were to go wrong. 

I am working on this project as a researcher with Dr Ibrahim Habli, from the Computer Science department at York, as well as Dr Tom Lawton MBE, the Clinical Head for AI at Bradford Teaching Hospitals. One of the main goals for this project is to produce a paper summarising our research and findings which we hope can be published, this would help to raise awareness of the real and potential problems of surgical robots.

What would you like to achieve this summer?

I have already begun to research the vast topic of the ethics of AI through writing my dissertation on facial recognition systems and I am now able to explore a different type of technology alongside its ethical concerns. I’m really excited to explore the field of healthcare robotics as it is vital to evaluate due to the potentially life-threatening consequences of the deployment of this technology. I would also like to develop my skills as a researcher and contribute to a rapidly evolving field.

And what are your first impressions of the YorRobots summer school

Everyone I have spoken to so far has been so friendly and excited about their field of research which has made it even more enjoyable.

I am slightly disappointed that the pandemic has meant I couldn’t carry out my research in York alongside other students and researchers, but I’ve really enjoyed hearing about everyone’s different research interests and I really look forward to seeing how everyone’s projects develop!