Robot Independently Applies the Scientific Method

Posted on April 3, 2009  Comments (2)

Robot achieves scientific first by Clive Cookson

A laboratory robot called Adam has been hailed as the first machine in history to have discovered new scientific knowledge independently of its human creators. Adam formed a hypothesis on the genetics of bakers’ yeast and carried out experiments to test its predictions, without intervention from its makers at Aberystwyth University.

The result was a series of “simple but useful” discoveries, confirmed by human scientists, about the gene coding for yeast enzymes. The research is published in the journal Science.

Adam is the result of a five-year collaboration between computer scientists and biologists at Aberystwyth and Cambridge universities.

The researchers endowed Adam with a huge database of yeast biology, automated hardware to carry out experiments, supplies of yeast cells and lab chemicals, and powerful artificial intelligence software. Although they did not intervene directly in Adam’s experiments, they did stand by to fix technical glitches, add chemicals and remove waste.

“Adam is a prototype,” says Prof King. “Eve is better designed and more elegant.” In the new experiments, Adam and Eve will work together to devise and carry out tests on thousands of chemical compounds to discover antimalarial drugs.

Very cool.

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2 Responses to “Robot Independently Applies the Scientific Method”

  1. Dan
    April 16th, 2009 @ 12:31 pm

    If the robot has good enough AI to make science discoveries, what’s next?

  2. Scott Thourson
    April 30th, 2009 @ 9:13 pm

    What can be scary is that we don’t really know if AI will continue to take “steps”. There could be some point in time where robots and AI start taking giant “leaps” in independent learning. I always wondered if when humans reach that point in the creation of AI they will find a way to manage and control the robots so that we are still superior and in control. Maybe we will get to a point where the robots should control us? I guess we could ask WIll Smith. Nevertheless it is fun to watch things like this knowing humans created it.

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