Automating sciences: Philosophical and social dimensions

Ross D. King, Vlad Schuler Costa, Chris Mellingwood, Larisa N. Soldatova

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Clark Glymour argued in 2004 that despite a lack of public fanfare, there is mounting evidence that we are in the midst of... a revolution - premised on the automation of scientific discovery [1]. This paper highlights some of the philosophical and sociological dimensions that have been found empirically in work conducted with robot scientists - that is, with autonomous robotic systems for scientific discovery. Robot scientists do not supply definite answers to the discussed questions, but rather provide proofs of concept for various ideas. For example, it is not that robot scientists solve the realist/antirealist philosophical debate, but that when working with robot scientists one has to make a philosophical choice - in this case, to assume a realist view of science. There are still few systems for autonomous scientific discovery in existence, and it is too early to generalize and propose new theories. However, being in the midst of... a revolution it is important for the research community to re-examine views pertinent to scientific discovery. This paper highlights how experience with robot scientists could inform discussions in other disciplines, from philosophy of science to computer creativity research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40-46
Number of pages7
JournalIEEE Technology and Society Magazine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Mar 2018

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Institute of Biotechnology
  • Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing


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