Assessment: In less than six hours after it was turned on, the AI not only generated a copy of VX, but also modeled 40,000 molecules that were either known chemical warfare agents or could potentially be turned into new chemical weapons …
An artificial intelligence designed to help drug manufacturers find new medicines to treat diseases invented 40,000 new potential chemical weapons in just six hours.
Researchers with the North Carolina-based startup Collaboration Pharmaceuticals Inc. say they have computational proof that AI technologies designed for drug discovery could be “misused for de novo design of biochemical weapons.” In a study published in the journal Nature Machine Intelligence, they describe how a “thought exercise” turned into a “wake up call” for the “AI in drug discovery community.”
“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” Isaiah 5:20
The company has a commercial machine learning model, called MegaSyn, which is trained to identify potential drug candidates by filtering out compounds that would be toxic for human beings. Scientists wanted to know what would happen if the logic of the AI’s algorithm was reversed — what would it do if it were trained to find toxic compounds instead of eliminate them.
Using an open-source database, scientists instructed their AI to look for molecules with similar chemical properties to the nerve agent VX, one of the most dangerous chemical weapons invented in the 20th century.
VX is a tasteless and odorless chemical that attacks the body’s nervous system, paralyzing muscles and preventing a person exposed to the agent from breathing. The extremely toxic compound was used to assassinate Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.
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