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Airdate: Mar 10, 2016
Scientist: Benjamin Jantzen

Algorithm of Discovery - New Ideas From Computers

Algorithm of Discovery -  New Ideas From Computers
HAL can open the pod door, but can he come come with a new concept?

Transcript:
Algorithm of Discovery New Laws

We use computers to organize and research of existing knowledge. But is it possible to design computer programs that come up with new ideas? I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet

Jantzen: I'm aiming to produce computer programs that on their own carry out original scientific discovery.

Benjamin Jantzen is an assistant professor of philosophy in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech.

Jantzen: Think about science in the most general terms you can. The first question you have to solve is what should we pay attention to? What collections of things are good targets for scientific investigation? You're not to get far looking for the laws of all blue things, for example. There's is nothing substantial that all blue things have in common.
But acid-base reactions or planetary systems -- these are kinds of things that are really rich in sort of law-like regularity.

Up to now we've been deciding for the computer what collections of things and what quantities to look at. tThe computer is essentially a data processor. To say that the computer undertake scientific discovery on its own, we need to move past the data processor model. We want the machine to - in a sense - look at the world and decide what to pay attention to.

The way we've been working with computers in scientific discovery, is as mostly tools for data processing. we have some established subject of scientific interest and we asked the machine to help us find relationships amongst the ..quantities are we studying that that subject.
What we want to do, is get the machines to help us in a new way. we want to get the machines to open up new sciences for us. They decide the relevant context. They decide the system of quantities, the stuff we're going to pay attention to.

So let's say we were looking for new ideas in the physical realms of temperature, volume and pressure.

Jantzen: All the different ways you can have - a thing with temperature volume and pressure, right? The tires on your car, the reaction vat in some chemical plants, a building with an air-conditioning system - all the ways that we can have those variables together. They're all going to have something in common. That's the kind of thing were after when were carving out a new area of science.

In future programs, we'll hear more about using computers to generate new ideas. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.