The Automation of Science

author: Ross D. King, School of Computer Science, University of Manchester
published: June 28, 2019,   recorded: May 2019,   views: 72
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Description

The application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to science has a distinguished history. Recent progress in AI and laboratory automation has made it possible to fully automate simple forms of scientific research. A Robot Scientist is a physically implemented robotic system that applies techniques from AI to execute cycles of automated scientific experimentation: hypothesis formation, selection of efficient experiments to discriminate between hypotheses, execution of experiments using laboratory automation equipment, and analysis of results. The motivation for Robot Scientists is to both better understand science, and to make science more efficient. Our Robot Scientist ‘Adam’ was the first machine to autonomously discover novel scientific knowledge. Our Robot Scientist ‘Eve’ was originally designed to automate drug discovery, with a focus on neglected tropical diseases. We are now adapting Eve to work with and learn about yeast systems biology and cancer. In chess there is a continuum of ability from novices up to Grandmasters. We argue that it is likely that advances in AI and lab automation will drive the development of ever-smarter Robot Scientists. The Physics Nobel Frank Wilczek is on record as saying that in 100 years’ time the best physicist will be a machine. If this comes to pass it will not only transform technology, but our understanding of science, and the Universe.

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