AI Darwin

by Alex Tabarrok on June 6, 2015 at 10:41 am in Science | Permalink

Wired: For the first time ever a computer has managed to develop a new scientific theory using only its artificial intelligence, and with no help from human beings.

Computer scientists and biologists from Tufts University programmed the computer so that it was able to develop a theory independently when it was faced with a scientific problem. The problem they chose was one that has been puzzling biologists for 120 years. The genes of sliced-up flatworms are capable of regenerating in order to form new organisms — this is a long-documented phenomenon, but scientists have been mystified for years over exactly what happens to the cells to make this possible.

The first sentences exaggerates (this is neither the first such discovery nor did the AI have no help from humans) but the discovery of how flatworms regenerate is real and unlike say proofs of the four-color theorem the theory is readily comprehensible to humans:

What the computer discovered was that the process requires three known molecules and two proteins that were previously unknown. This discovery, says Levin, “represents the most comprehensive model of planarian regeneration found to date”.

“One of the most remarkable aspects of the project was that the model it found was not a hopelessly-tangled network that no human could actually understand, but a reasonably simple model that people can readily comprehend,” he adds. All this suggests to me that artificial intelligence can help with every aspect of science, not only data mining but also inference of meaning of the data,”

Addendum: Original paper and another useful discussion from Popular Mechanics.

AI Darwin

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