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Comment: Artificial intelligence yields new antibiotic.

The researchers tested it against dozens of bacterial strains isolated from patients and grown in lab dishes, and found that it was able to kill many that are resistant to treatment, including Clostridium difficile, Acinetobacter baumannii, and Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

Trafton, A. (2020). Artificial intelligence yields new antibiotic. Big Think.

Something that stood out for me in this short article is the scale that machine learning models work at. The algorithm in this trial explored more than a hundred million compounds in a few days, something that would be prohibitively expensive, if not impossible, if attempted with more traditional methods.

What’s also promising is that this antibiotic seems to work in a way that makes it difficult for bacteria to develop a resistance to, another example of how AI is a very different kind of intelligence to human intelligence. It won’t only explore much larger problem spaces than we’re capable of but could possibly develop solutions to the problems we care about in very different ways.

You may not think of this as being creative but regardless of what you call it, you have to acknowledge that it’s effective.

By Michael Rowe

I'm a lecturer in the Department of Physiotherapy at the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, South Africa. I'm interested in technology, education and healthcare and look for places where these things meet.