The Curing Machine

Last year, the Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded for a discovery that took 44 years to develop, and involved two different research teams. But, while their breakthrough promises new kinds of diagnosis and therapy, what if radical insights could be developed by computers in a matter of minutes, rather than decades?

VIRGINIA BEACH – Last year, the Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded for a discovery that took 44 years to develop, and involved two different research teams. The breakthrough promises new kinds of diagnosis and therapy, but what if such insights could be developed by computers in minutes, rather than decades? The recent appearance of a new coronavirus, which has killed nine people in the United Kingdom and the Middle East, is a reminder that novel treatments are sometimes needed in a hurry.

With different modeling abstractions, it might be possible to build an artificial-intelligence system (AI) that could design new treatments. That system would suggest surprising, effective therapies, because it would understand disease in ways that are difficult for humans to imagine. The notion seems like science fiction: everyone knows that AI is not particularly clever.

In order to build a “curing machine” of this kind, at least one far-reaching innovation is needed: a better way of modeling entire systems, which would deliver new conceptual tools to both biology and computer science.

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