Automating Science using Robot Scientists

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Imperial College London

LT1, ACEX 250

Department of Chemical Engineering, South Kensington

London

SW7 2AZ

United Kingdom

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A Robot Scientist is a physically implemented robotic system that applies techniques from artificial intelligence to execute cycles of automated scientific experimentation. A Robot Scientist can automatically execute cycles of hypothesis formation, selection of efficient experiments to discriminate between hypotheses, execution of experiments using laboratory automation equipment, and analysis of results. The motivation for developing Robot Scientists is to both to better understand the scientific method, and to make scientific research more efficient. The Robot Scientist ‘Adam’ was the first machine to autonomously discover scientific knowledge: it formed and experimentally confirmed novel hypotheses. Adam worked in the domain of yeast functional genomics. The Robot Scientist ‘Eve’ was originally developed to automate early-stage drug development, with specific application to neglected tropical disease such as malaria, African sleeping sickness, etc. More recently my colleagues and I have adapted Eve to work on yeast systems biology, and cancer. We argue that it is likely that advances in AI and lab automation will drive the development of ever-smarter Robot Scientists. The Physics Nobel Frank Wilczek is on record as saying that in 100 years’ time the best physicist will be a machine. If this comes to pass it will transform our understanding of science and the Universe.


Speaker Biography

Ross D. King is Professor of Machine Intelligence at the University of Manchester, UK. He is one of the most experienced machine learning researchers in the UK. His main research interest is the interface between computer science and science. He originated the idea of a ‘Robot Scientist’: integrating AI and laboratory robotics to physically implement closed-loop scientific discovery. His Robot Scientist ‘Adam’ was the first machine to autonomously discover scientific knowledge. His Robot Scientist ‘Eve’ is currently searching for drugs against neglected tropical diseases, and cancer. This research has been published in top scientific journals, Science, Nature, etc. and has received wide publicity. His other core research interest is DNA computing. He developed the first nondeterministic universal Turing machine, and is now working on ‘DNA supremacy’: a DNA computer that can solve larger NP complete problems that conventional or quantum computers. He is also very interested in computational economics and aesthetics.

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Imperial College London

LT1, ACEX 250

Department of Chemical Engineering, South Kensington

London

SW7 2AZ

United Kingdom

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