I think, therefore I, robot

Human researchers have developed their mechanical counterparts: ‘robo-scientists’ that can think independently,

Two separate teams of researchers, reporting on Thursday in the journal Science, said that they had created machines that could reason, formulate theories and discover scientific knowledge on their own, marking a major advance in the field of artificial intelligence.

Such “robo-scientists” could be put to work unravelling complex biological systems, designing new drugs, modelling the world’s climate or understanding the cosmos.

For the moment, though, they are performing more humble tasks...

Meet Adam: The first robot scientist to make an independent discovery

A robot developed by UK scientists, which can think up scientific theories and test them with almost no human help, has ushered in a new era in artificial intelligence.

In tests, the machine – named Adam – was able to identify previously unknown genetic processes in baker’s yeast.

It produced hypotheses about how certain genes should work and devised tests to prove its ideas were right.

Professor Ross King of Aberystwyth University, Wales – who helped create Adam – said: “This is the first time we believe such a system has discovered novel scientific knowledge. We are very excited about it.”

The robot takes up 15 square metres of space at the university and is equipped with an arm and a range of devices, including an automated freezer and an incubator.

“It is not the management and analysis of complex data that is the big deal about Adam. What’s amazing is the ability of the machine to reason with those data and make proposals about how a living thing works,” said Stephen Oliver, who co-authored the study on the project.

A second robot, called Eve, will work alongside it to help find new medicines for diseases such as malaria.

Professor Douglas Kell, whose biotech group BBSRC funded the research, said: “Computers play a fundamental role in the scientific process, which is becoming increasingly automated, for instance, in drug design and DNA sequencing.”

“Ultimately, we hope to have teams of human and robot scientists working together in labs,” King said.

Although Adam’s discoveries were simple, experts believe future models may one day rival Albert Einstein for genius.

King said: “I wouldn’t rule out the possibility, but it probably wouldn’t be in my lifetime.”

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