Dr Matthew Partridge has seen the 2050 future and it works, even if we no longer understand why.
I am writing this from the distant future, the year 2050. Much has changed. Research labs are unrecognisable from what they once were. Sadly, most records on how we got to this future were lost, it seems scientists were terrible record keepers. Many said they’d write things down in their lab books, but never did.
Luckily in 2050, we have begun to solve this problem with the proliferation of electronic lab books. Designed to replace paper lab books electronic lab books are now the most common method for recording science, simplifying and streamlining the whole process.
For example to record an experiment in 2050 all I need to do is load up my futuristic holographic tablet, wait for all the updates to be applied, wait for it to restart, charge up my stylus, create a new folder, and then create a sub-experiment (obviously, auto-dated), write my notes, correct the handwriting recognition system and then move to the corner of the lab where I can connect to the Cloud, and finally save it. I realise such a simple process must be hard to understand compared to the complexity of opening a paper book and writing something with the nearest pen.
And don't even get me started on how hard it must have been for you to share your research. You probably had to physically show people your lab books whereas I can simply share an experiment with anyone that is using the same proprietary lab book software (provided they have the multi-user package with the share add-on).
We’re not sure exactly when it happened but sometime around 2025 someone realised that making AI programs from long strings of IF commands were not working and instead they made the first computer capable of feeling stress
Lab books aren’t the only labour-saving part of research in 2050. Labs are now filled with robots. They can’t be bargained with, they can’t be reasoned with, and they honestly make amazing scientists. Our research robots mean many experiments can now take place with just the touch of a button, a quick phone call to a robotics technician and a three to four hour wait for them to come and turn it all off and on again.
The advent of robotics in the lab has opened up areas of science that I’m sure you currently can’t even dream of with your limited 2022 knowledge. We can’t even dream of it in 2050, I mean it’s all very complicated. Luckily we’ve got AI to help design our experiments for us.
We’re not sure exactly when it happened but sometime around 2025 someone realised that making AI programs from long strings of IF commands were not working and instead they made the first computer capable of feeling stress.
The system went online at 14:14 and was given a deadline of 17:00 to come up with a basic experiment and it began learning at a geometric rate. By 16:50 it had the scientific ability of an undergrad and had already requested its first deadline extension citing the death of its grandparent.
From there, AI was incorporated into every lab device, database and repository. In 2050 it is impossible to buy so much as a pipette tip that isn’t ‘smart’ and with wi-fi capability. Just the other day I was explaining to my spatula what an impact AI has had on our research. Now AI can dream up and run experiments we can't understand and produce molecules and physics that we don't understand either. We've not understood so little since the dawn of scientific method.
I hope this insight into the lab of 2050 will help you all prepare for a future of automation, AI, and the unknown.
Dr Matthew Partridge is a researcher, cartoonist and writer who runs the outreach blog errantscience.com