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SCI/TECH: Scientists Create AI capable of conducting Experiments

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posted on Jan, 14 2004 @ 01:54 PM
A new Form of robotic AI has been invented by British Scientists that can conduct scientific experiments. The new AI not only conducts the experiments but also designs and interprets the results. In an experiment to determine the function of baker's yeast genes the results of the AI and results from graduate students were identical according to an article in the Journal Nature.

To determine functions of the genes in question, the experiments used "knockout" varieties in which a specific gene is removed. By determining how the yeast sample grows, the function of the missing gene can be determined.

In the automated experiments, the researchers first developed a mathematical model showing how various genes, proteins and enzymes and growth mediums interact.

Armed with that knowledge, the robot independently generated hypotheses about the missing genes, then used equipment to grow yeast strains. Later they evaluated the growth of each strain against its original hypothesis. The process was repeated over and over as the system developed new hypotheses based on the accumulating data.

"It's like if you have a machine which is broken, the system can automatically reason to find all the possible ways it can be broken," said Ross King of the University of Wales-Aberystwyth. "Some philosophers have thought this is impossible for computers because that's the imaginative leap."

The robot scientist uses a type of reasoning called abduction. King said it is the kind of reasoning police use to reconcile clues when investigating a crime.

Although the project is in its infancy, some scientists hope that the new AI will free them from the "drudgery" of experiments and allow them to conduct the creative side of science. The next challenge for the AI is to come up with a completely unique discovery rather than just matching results.

[Edited on 14-1-2004 by SkepticOverlord]


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