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
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November 6, 2009
First Standard Graphical Language for Biology
A new set of standards for graphically representing biological information was recently published by researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), who worked on the standards with researchers from 30 laboratories worldwide. The new Systems Biology Graphical Notation (SBGN) is described in the August issue of Nature Biotechnology. SBGN promises to be for the biological sciences what circuit diagrams are for electronics, and will facilitate the exchange of complex information using consistent biological models.
August 16, 2009
Blurring the Line Between Hardware and Software
Writing on the Foresight Institute website, J. Storrs Hall discusses how the boundary between hardware and software is becoming "fuzzier" as systems become more complex and nanotechnology becomes more important. With future use of nanocontrollers, the complexity of mechanical systems will accelerate to the point that "matter compilers" will be required for the design. This means that the nanotechnology designer will be using the same processes to design nanotechnology that today's software developers use to design and implement software. Dr. Hall predicts that the ability to write reliable software will become more and more important in the coming world of nanotechnology. If he is right, this is further evidence that the problems that software has caused for patent law will begin to creep into the application of patent law to nanotechnology for the same reasons.
Dr. Hall is a leader in the field of molecular nanotechnology and president of the Foresight Institute. He is also known for coining the term Utility Fog, which is a hypothetical collection of nano-robots that unite to form a solid mass in the shape of any desired object.
October 11, 2008
Computer Simulation Uncovers Evidence of Biological Evolution
Two researchers at Florida State University simulated the activity of an enzyme known as IMPDH and observed that the enzyme followed two different pathways for delivering catalytic agents to biological cells. "Why would an enzyme have two pathways dedicated to the same task? Yang and his colleagues believe that the slower pathway is an evolutionary vestige left over from an ancient enzyme that evolved over eons into modern-day IMPDH."
August 30, 2008
Quotation Day at Automating Invention
A tool is but the extension of a man's hand, and a machine is but a complex tool. And he that invents a machine augments the power of a man and the well-being of mankind.
-- Henry Ward Beecher
Our inventions mirror our secret wishes.
-- Charles H. Duell
Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody else has thought.
-- Jonathan Swift
To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.
I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.
Genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.
-- Thomas A. Edison
February 6, 2006
Computer Thought Control
Nikkei Weekly reports that researchers at the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research have developed software that allows a user to move an on-screen cursor using thought alone (see summary here). The software receives signals from an electroencephalograph, which monitors brain waves read by electrodes attached to the user's head.
July 20, 2005
Isaac Asimov on Science, Technology, and the Future
Isaac Asimov, one of the "big three" science fiction authors (along with Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Heinlein), also had a lot to say about science and society generally. His Wikipedia entry attributes the following quotes, among others, to him:
- A subtle thought that is in error may yet give rise to fruitful inquiry that can establish truths of great value.
- Suppose that we are wise enough to learn and know — and yet not wise enough to control our learning and knowledge, so that we use it to destroy ourselves? Even if that is so, knowledge remains better than ignorance.
- The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny...'
- The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.
- I do not fear computers. I fear lack of them.
- Part of the inhumanity of the computer is that, once it is competently programmed and working smoothly, it is completely honest.
- Individual science fiction stories may seem as trivial as ever to the blinder critics and philosophers of today — but the core of science fiction, its essence has become crucial to our salvation if we are to be saved at all.
- It is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be.
- Science fiction writers foresee the inevitable, and although problems and catastrophes may be inevitable, solutions are not.