How AI Is Changing Science

First Posted: May 05, 2019 10:34 PM EDT

The introduction of artificial intelligence into human affairs has been met with interest and fear around the globe; millions of people are fascinated by the potential that intelligent machines possess to change our lives for the better, yet countless others justifiably fear job-loss to machines and a number of other worrying consequences from AI's development. Despite the controversies being generated by AI's continued development, however, this innovative technology isn't slowing down anytime soon. It's time to start discussing how AI is changing science and presenting new challenges to society.

Here's how AI is changing science, and what intelligent machines hold for the future of scientific inquiry.

Science is becoming automated

If there's one succinct way to describe how AI is changing science, it's that intelligence machines are automating science to a degree previously thought unimaginable. Around the world, millions of laborers hard at work fear that they'll one day be replaced by a machine, and we're continuously told that software can automate countless industries. What too few people are discussing is the way that AI is gradually ingraining itself into the field of science and automating a number of tasks that previously required human expertise.

Take the field of astronomy, for instance, where intelligent machines are rapidly coming to redefine the ways that humans longingly gaze up at the stars above. AI is proving to be the perfect tool when it comes to exploring the universe, capable of crunching immense sums of data that would prove to be far too dizzying for any human scientist to try and consider. In our search for new planets and the possibility of extraterrestrial life, we've begun to harness the power of algorithms which can detect interesting patterns in the cosmos and direct human astronomers towards interesting areas of inquiry.

Other fields that depend heavily on science are also finding themselves upended by the introduction of intelligent machines into everyday processes. Across the healthcare industry, for instance, medical researchers and everyday physicians alike are finding themselves beset by digital disruption largely abetted by intelligent software that can help manage hospitals and biological research more effectively than ever before. Patients now routinely speak with software programs instead of human clerks when booking non-emergency hospital appointments, for instance, with human medical experts having more time to focus strictly on patient outcomes.

Researchers are achieving more with less

The results of the automation of science are largely positive, mainly because AI helps researchers achieve more at a lower cost by automating mundane processes and freeing up their creative talents for endeavors that specifically require human competence. AI is beginning to drastically speed up research in just about every industry imaginable, with reputable scientists finding assistance not through their colleagues but via intelligent machines that can interface with other software programs around the world.

This is leading some scientists to revolt, as many view the rise of AI with suspicion in the same way that some laborers view the automated manufacturing processes that replaced them. Nevertheless, there are plenty of reasons to believe that AI will supercharge science rather than eradicating the role of humans in the equation. After all, intelligent machines can't do everything, and require human oversight and responsibility when it comes to applying them to real-world scenarios, such as running a website design agency. Scientists can thus rest assured that they aren't going anywhere anytime soon.

Humans will always have a role in science

Despite all the hubbub being raised by AI and how its changing science, humans will always have a role to play in discovering new technologies and foraying into exciting, emerging fields of study. When it comes to dealing with ethical issues in particular, too, human expertise will be called upon for years to come, especially since AI is proving to be less-capable of ethics and morality than many of its proponents once imagined.

The top ethical issues that are plaguing artificial intelligence won't be resolved anytime soon, yet more human scientists will be needed to resolve such ethical dilemmas as they emerge. As intelligent machines become a more ingrained facet of society, everyday people will become more familiar with AI, too, which will present new challenges and questions altogether. Scientists are familiar with AI right now, for instance, but everyday consumers and citizens still view intelligent machines as a novel or Hollywood-like apparition that's only fit for movies.

When it comes to explaining the role that AI has to play in society, scientists will grow more important than ever in the forthcoming future. Intelligent human experts with experience conducting research and dealing with emerging technology will be needed to parse with the many implications of intelligent machines, especially if AI keeps evolving to a worrisome point. It's almost impossible to describe the many ways that AI is changing science, given that this is a fundamental overhaul, but if one thing's clear it's that artificial intelligence poses serious ethical concerns.

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