Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Report from IJCAI09 conference - ONS and AI

On July 12, 2009 I presented a talk at the IJCAI'09 Workshop on Abductive & Inductive Knowledge Development in Pasadena, CA. While I was waiting to speak my computer permanently failed to reboot so I was not able to record my talk. Luckily I did have a copy on a flash drive and the slides are available on SlideShare.

The workshop had a mix of theoretical and practical talks about using automated reasoning. Lorenzo Magnani gave an interesting view of "manipulative abduction", where the thinker creates a hypothesis from interacting physically with the world without a preconceived plan. That generated some more discussion during the panel session and the question of whether a machine is capable of such activity was explored but not resolved. It sounded to me a lot like play.

Other talks that I particularly enjoyed included Deborah Chasman's presentation of using abductive logic programming in bioinformatics to understand how the Brome Mozaic Virus infects and replicates. Bassel Habib demonstrated the reconstruction of Claude Bernard's curare experiments on frogs from his original lab notebooks. He noted that Bernard did not usually explicitly state his hypotheses in his notebook - perhaps he was operating on manipulative abduction...

The most interesting talk for me was certainly Oliver Ray's presentation. He described his work on writing the logic behind Ross King's robot scientist. Basically the code creates hypotheses, checks them against the data obtained from the robot's experiments then reports those that seem to be valid. In this application the robot was trying to work out the metabolic pathways of yeast and some of the strongest hypotheses were strange. For example, indole was correlating with yeast growth in an expected way. It turned out that tryptophan was a contaminant in the indole supply. This was really a great example of how machine intelligence can amplify the ability of humans to reason. I'm hoping that Oliver can collaborate with us to apply similar tools to our solubility and synthesis projects.

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