Designing machines with autonomy

From independence to interdependence to solidarity


Current notions of design are strongly influenced by user and human- centered approaches. However, with technologies that present increasing computing power, context-awareness, and algorithms that “design themselves”, designers are starting to face issues that go beyond the needs of users. In this paper, we argue that the focus on humans not only neglects the increasing potential of machines but also other forms of life, limiting design’s possibilities. We attempt to investigate the design of machines with autonomy, beyond human-centered and anthropocentric views, and present an alternative approach, where machines would not serve or command humans, but exist and evolve in parallel to them. We present this exploration through three design concepts, Gatekeeper on the Mission, Perception Companion, and Poet on the Shore that seek to explore notions of independence, co- dependence and identification between humans and machines. We conclude by discussing main challenges faced in these three perspectives and future directions for research.