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Robot Scientists Mark Advancement For Artificial Intelligence

April 3, 2009

On Thursday, two teams of researcher announced that they have created machines capable of reasoning, creating theories, and discovering knowledge on their own.

The announcement marks a major advancement for artificial intelligence.

In the future, these robots could be used to design new medical treatments, or unravel complex biological systems.

Ross King and colleagues at Aberystwyth University in Wales have created Adam, a robot capable of carrying out experiments on yeast metabolism, analyzing the results, and formulating further experiments.

The machine has already discovered new facts about baker’s yeast.

“On its own it can think of hypotheses and then do the experiments, and we’ve checked that it’s got the results correct,” King told Reuters News.

“People have been working on this since the 1960s. When we first sent robots to Mars, they really dreamt of the robots doing their own experiments on Mars. After 40 or 50 years, we’ve now got the capability to do that.”

Eve, the groups next robot, will have even more brain power and will begin searching for new medicines.

The researchers hope Eve, and robots like her, will be valuable in research on treatments for neglected diseases such as malaria. Kings findings appear the in the journal Science.

In the same journal a second paper from Hod Lipson and Michael Schmidt of Cornell University explains how they have created a computer program capable of finding the fundamental laws of physics.

The Cornell machine was able to decipher Isaac Newton’s laws of motions without prior instructions.
Lipson foresees robots taking over routine laboratory work in the future.

“One of the biggest problems in science today is finding the underlying principles in areas where there are lots and lots of data,” he said.

“This can help in accelerating the rate at which we can discover scientific principles behind the data.”

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