AI and Collective Intelligence
The recent progress in Artificial Intelligence provides both challenges and opportunities for scientific collective intelligence. Among the most notable examples of AI progress are ChatGPT and other Large Language Models, which have shown unexpected capabilities (Wei 2022, Mitchell 2023), and AlphaFold, which can predict the 3D shape of proteins from their genetic sequence with unprecedented accuracy (Jumper 2021).
AI poses specific challenges for science. There are many reports of errors in statements from ChatGPT and from other AI systems. The types of errors and blind spots seem different from those more common in humans.
These AI systems consist of neural networks with billions to trillions of parameters (Mitchell, 2023) and it is therefore not possible to provide a simple explanation for their outputs. This makes it difficult to evaluate any generalization to a problem different from the dataset on which the AI system has been trained. A related concern is that an AI system with a good track record might suggest an experimental approach that requires large amounts of resources and we might not be able to provide an independent assessment.
We can consider AI also as an opportunity for science and collective intelligence.
There is wide support for the view that human intelligence evolved in response to intellectual challenges, posed by culture and by social interactions. Recently, the pace of societal change has outstripped biological evolution, and has manifested itself as non-biological cultural evolution. AI systems should be viewed as an opportunity that will stimulate the continuing cultural evolution of our collective intelligence.
There are several examples of major challenges that have promoted collective scientific efforts. Among these are:
The WW2 effort at Bletchley Park, where Alan Turing played a key role; this effort led to the first purely electronic digital computers, responding to cryptography advances by Germany.
The Manhattan Project, prompted by the discovery of nuclear fission by German scientists and leading to advances in nuclear physics, for both military and peaceful applications.
The creation of NASA that led to the Moon landing, sparked by the Sputnik launch and the space race with the Soviet Union.
AI, with its variety of ways of organizing vast amounts of information, can make large scale discussions possible by finding new ways to connect ideas. This could be an iterative process in which human scientists can decide which avenues to pursue and provide novel integrated contributions.
Choice of problem
The scientific problems most suitable for an approach based on AI and collective intelligence are those that are broadly relevant for society, too complex for an individual human mind or for a small-team approach and where large datasets and new technologies are available. The field of cell-cell communication is an example.
A Survey about the control of Artificial Intelligence by the scientific community has been started, to stimulate a collective evaluation of the role of AI in science.
-Jumper, J., et al., 2021. Highly accurate protein structure prediction with AlphaFold. Nature, 596(7873), pp.583-589.
-Mitchell, M. and Krakauer, D.C., 2023. The debate over understanding in AI’s large language models. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 120(13), p.e2215907120.
-Wei J et al. 2022. Emergent abilities of large language models. arXiv preprint arXiv:2206.07682.