About This Blog
Automating Invention is Robert Plotkin's blog on the impact of computer-automated inventing on the future of invention and patent law.
- Artificial Invention
- Design & Engineering
- Evolutionary Computation
- Genie in the Machine
- History of Computing
- Human Creativity
- Intellectual Property Law
- Philosophy of Computing
- Software Patents
- Technology Industry
September 22, 2005
Replacing clinical trials with computers
New Scientist reports on work performed by Richard Ho at Johnson & Johnson to test experimental diabetes drugs inexpensively and quickly by using computers to simulate the effects of such drugs on virtual patients. According to the article, IBM Business Consulting Services considers biosimulation to be a key driver of innovation in the pharmaceutical industry over the next decade.
Although this work is not related directly to automated inventing, simulators more generally are playing a critical role in such inventing, and the ability of simulators to eliminate or reduce the need for physical construction and testing in various domains is likely to continue radically reducing the resources needed to develop new products and processes.
Evolutionary computation provides perspective on "intelligent design"
Lee Spector wrote a nice piece in the Boston Globe explaining in layperson's terms how evolutionary computation (EC) works, and pointing out how EC can be useful for enabling people to "appreciate the power of selection operating on random variation when it is stripped of its emotion-laden connections to human origins and is shown to be capable of designing complex solutions to difficult problems."
Of most relevance to this site, Prof. Spector describes how the quantum computing circuits that his software has evolved are not only difficult for humans in general to understand or design, "they are extremely difficult for me to understand or design, and I could never have produced the results on my own. I am not a designer equal to that task, but evolution is."
Evolving clearer fingerprints
The National Science Foundation (NSF) reports on the use of a genetic algorithm to evolve a computer program for compressing digital images of fingerprints. The resulting program consistently outperforms the current world-standard program for fingerprint image compression, WSQ, developed by the FBI and others in the 1990s.
Images showing the improvement of successive generations of the genetic algorithm can be found at the link above.
September 6, 2005
People are still good for something
Although the focus of this blog may appear to be on technology that automates invention, technology is only half the story. People are the other half. It's an obvious point that is often overlooked in our technophilic culture (I say this as someone writing in the U.S.).
For example, if you're fearing that computer automation will soon make humans obsolete, read this article from ADTmag.com, which reports on a study finding that "[t]he best in class software development projects are 3.37 times faster to market and 7.48 times cheaper than the worst." Management and technology approaches, not technology itself, constituted three out of the four factors that contributed to these results.
In other words, the best software development projects run as smoothly--and hence quickly and inexpensively--as they do primarily because of how people manage and execute those projects. Even in a field that has been driven so much by computer automation, there is substantial room for human expertise to make a significant real-world difference.