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Accepted Paper:

Robot Scientists and the Future of Science  
Vlad Schüler-Costa (University of Manchester)

Paper short abstract:

In this paper I delve upon the case of "Robot Scientists" being developed in a British University to discuss how the future of science is being imagined and constructed by scientists.

Paper long abstract:

In the last few years, "science automation" - that is, the automation of scientific processes - has been portrayed as the inevitable future of the scientific endeavour. The ways that such automation will take place is up for grabs - partial or total automation; only the "technical", "mechanical", or "mathematical" aspects of science, or science as a whole. But what is generally agreed by the scientific community is that this new wave of the "scientific revolution" is here to stay.

Based in a year of participant observation in a laboratory dedicated to the development of a "Robot Scientist", in this paper I discuss how current technology is seen, by the scientists I worked with, not as a finished product, but as a promise and proxy of future technologies to come. Current Robot Scientists are valued not for what they can actually do at the moment, but rather for the potential future(s) they represent.

Panel P164
Technologies, futures and imaginaries
  Session 1 Wednesday 15 August, 2018, -