KEY IDEA: The new machine-learning algorithm can distinguish between biological and nonbiological samples with 90% accuracy. Exactly how is a mystery.
Original author and publication date: Ben Turner (Live Science) – September 25, 2023
Futurizonte Editor’s Note: Good news, everybody! We just created a a new AI and we don’t know how it works!
From the article:
Scientists have created an artificial intelligence (AI) program that can detect alien life in physical samples — though they aren’t sure exactly how it works.
The new machine-learning algorithm — trained using living cells, fossils, meteorites and lab-made chemicals — can distinguish between samples of biological and nonbiological origin 90% of the time, according to the scientists who built it. Yet the algorithm’s inner workings remain a mystery.
The scientists say the new test could be used almost immediately. It would scan for life on Mars by crunching through data on Martian rocks collected by the Curiosity rover, as well as potentially reveal the origins of mysterious and ancient rocks found on Earth. The team published their findings Sept. 25 in the journal PNAS.
“These results mean that we may be able to find a lifeform from another planet, another biosphere, even if it is very different from the life we know on Earth,” study co-lead author Robert Hazen, an astrobiologist at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C., said in a statement.
“And, if we do find signs of life elsewhere, we can tell if life on Earth and other planets derived from a common or different origin.
“Put another way, the method should be able to detect alien biochemistries, as well as Earth life,” he added. “That is a big deal because it’s relatively easy to spot the molecular biomarkers of Earth life, but we cannot assume that alien life will use DNA, amino acids, etc. Our method looks for patterns in molecular distributions that arise from life’s demand for ‘functional’ molecules.”