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Quora Answer : What is the relationship between MachineLearning and the scientific method?

Aug 20, 2010

"Scientific method" is increasingly automated as a) robots do experiments (think robot arms moving petri-dishes around; chemical analysis labs on chips); and b) machine learning and reasoning algorithms do more of the conjecturing and deduction.

Many branches of modern sciences are already impossible without computers doing some of the calculations, curve-fitting, pattern matching.

Several things will follow from this :

  • much of practical scientific research will be deskilled. Working in a DNA analysis factory will be no different from working in a car factory. (And for Western readers, yes, that does mean it will all get off-shored to China or somewhere else cheap)
  • I think some of our philosophy of science will have to be rethought. In particular, some people still cling to certain assumptions about the kinds of reasoning that are required for something to be science. And what you'll start seeing is computers that just do some completely brute-force attempt to fit all potential models to the data and tell you the best one. When machines do science, a lot of the mystique will vanish.