Missing the point…
October 1, 2018
I have been working with surgical robots for almost 20 years, but at the beginning I didn’t understand the real core innovation of Robotics.
The mechanical improvement of the laparoscopic instrumentation was the most attractive feature, and for years I was focusing on expanding the range of MIS using the power of the endowristed electronic tools. I am lecturing around the world and receiving comments, questions and I can say that the large majority of people are still ‘missing the point’ – the disruptive change, the ultimate revolution. “Automatic machines, artificial intelligence, tele-manipulation, tele-surgery, computer-assisted
operations…” are some of the most common definitions I hear from others. All true, or at least partially true!
But which is the ‘quintessence’, the real breakthrough innovation of Robotics?
It is the revolutionary change of the interaction modality between the surgeon and the surgical target (the patient anatomy): from an analogical interaction to a ‘digital one’.
The surgical interaction is classically based on three steps:
- Acquisition/Interpretation of Information (images, data, tactile feedback, “sensorial” input, etc.)
- Decision Making Process
- Mechanical Output/Performance
All of these steps in traditional surgery, including laparoscopy, are dealing with individual human limitations and talent.
Not casually, in the ancient times, surgery was defined more as an ‘art’ than as a science. With Robotics, at least two steps are digitalized, therefore passing through a computer interphase. Mechanical skills, brain power, and human senses are no longer a limitation. All kinds of imaginable developments are feasible because they are connected with the progressive introduction of more sophisticated algorithms and software. Only the decision-making process seems to remain a peculiarity of the human brain.
Therefore, the best surgeon will be the one who makes the best decisions!
The surgeon’s hands will no longer be hands of a ‘virtuoso’ – even the fine tremors are eliminated!
Perhaps one day also the decision-making process will be controlled by artificial intelligence.
That day, real Robots will take over.
Which role will a surgeon have? Supervisor?
Will humans be the slaves of Robots?
Will the planet be in better hands?
Everyone can imagine his or her own end of the story.
Written By: The Hawk