From the very earliest moments in the modern history of the computer, scientists have dreamed of creating an “electronic brain”. Of all the modern technological quests, this search to create artificially intelligent (AI) computer systems has been one of the most ambitious and, not surprisingly, controversial.
Along with tasks that require reasoning with medical knowledge, AI systems also have a very different role to play in the process of scientific research. In particular, AI systems have the capacity to learn, leading to the discovery of new phenomena and the creation of medical knowledge. For example, a computer system can be used to analyse large amounts of data, looking for complex patterns within it that suggest previously unexpected associations. Equally, with enough of a model of existing medical knowledge, an AI system can be used to show how a new set of experimental observations conflict with the existing theories.