What do Robot Scientists do

Robot scientists from the future could win Nobel Prizes for autonomous scientific discoveries. With robot science, scientific questions can be investigated more efficiently, outer space can be explored and studied faster, and human scientists may be asked to pick up more test tubes for the robot scientists’ experiments. With major advances in robot design and artificial intelligence, scientific paradigms could at least hypothetically change very quickly as increasingly complex processing capacity merges with highly efficient data processing.

At present robotic science has achieved the milestone of creating the first robot scientists that can independently complete a process of scientific inquiry. Two well known robot scientists are fittingly called Adam and Eve. These two robot scientists work at Aberystwyth University in the United Kingdom where Adam is a Microbiologist, and Eve is a Biochemist. A January 2010 article in the Journal of Automated Experimentation claims both these robot scientists are capable of creating hypotheses, performing repetitive experiments, and analyzing data from the experiments to learn new ways to test for scientific objectives.  

In the future, it is realistic to expect robot scientists will continue to improve upon the scientific process by expediting the lines of scientific inquiry directed by human scientists. In other words, robot scientists will become lab assistants that are well suited for exacting, repetitive and potentially unsafe integration of scientific knowledge. According to a New York Times report by John Markoff, the fear of  some human scientists is not so much that robot scientists will become self-aware, but that they may become exploited for the wrong ends.

Another possibility is that humans and machines could integrate into hybrid human-robot scientists. Researchers have already begun creating brain-computer interfaces for use with prosthetic limbs, and this process can by extension, also include additional functions of the human brain. This possibility is being actively researched by a German federally funded project called the Berlin Brain-Computer Interface. The research has successfully enabled a human brain to remotely control the flippers of a pinball machine.

In the future, if robot science advances further, robot scientists could in affect interface with human  scientists for cognitively or physically coordinated project functions. In an inverse relationship, robots could begin to take on simulated biological or social functions such as with neural networks, and language recognition. According to NASA, Carnegie Melon successfully created a robot that used its neural network to independently drive a car for 98 percent of its tasked journey. NASA hopes in the future robot scientists will be able to assist astronauts with their scientific research in space. So far, NASA claims robots scientists have a lack of recorded flight history.