The scientists’ apprentice

07 July 2017  Vol 357, Issue 6346
Special Issue – The cyberscientist
Introduction to special issue

The scientists’ apprentice
Tim Appenzeller
Big data has met its match. In field after field, the ability to collect data has exploded, overwhelming human insight and analysis. But the computing advances that helped deliver the data have also conjured powerful new tools for making sense of it all. In a revolution that extends across much of science, researchers are unleashing artificial intelligence (AI), often in the form of artificial neural networks, on these mountains of data. Unlike earlier attempts at AI, such “deep learning” systems don’t need to be programmed with a human expert’s knowledge. Instead, they learn on their own, often from large training data sets, until they can see patterns and spot anomalies in data sets far larger and messier than human beings can cope with.