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Dinosaur identification expert system (w

On Wednesday, June 09, 1999 5:10 PM, Philidor11 [SMTP:Philidor11@aol.com]   
> Some time ago I read that physicians in emergency rooms now have
> available to  them a computer program which is able to develop a
> prognosis for patients which is at least as good as the one developed
> by the doctors themselves.

The use of expert systems in medicine is well known for litterally   
decades. In fact, the Mycin (sp?) system was one of the very first such   
systems ever. Together with geology (locating likely locations of   
minerals and oil) medicin was the field in which expert systems started.

> Apparently it is possible to develop invariable rules which have   
predictive value.

It definitely is. It's not an easy process, but in principle the   
knowledge that human experts use (whether they explicitly work by rules,   
work by rules of thumb or they don't even know exactly themselves how   
they do it) can be laid down in an expert system that then can ask the   
user questions, builds hypotheses with probabilities and asks just those   
further questions to zoom in onto the solution. If the so called   
knowledge engineering has been done and worked out correctly in the sense   
that it really captures the "knowledge" of the human expert(s) conculted   
during the process, such an expert system should be able to replace, to a   
very large extent or even entirely, the expert(s) themselves.

In fact, for a course in expert systems I had to build a small expert   
system myself for a practical test. As the subject I chose dinosaur   
identification. I originally wanted to use myself as "the expert", but   
after asking around (also here on the list) I found out the Black Hills   
Institute was in fact working on such a system, so that groups in the   
field could do some preliminary identification of found remains without   
having to have one of the experts present on site. I was given permission   
to use some of their information for my expert system project and even   
though it was a very simple system, I personally think that DiKnowSaur   
(as I called it ;-)) did a reasonable job of recognising dinosaur remains   
down to a certain level.

In the publication section on my website   
(http://www.jarno.demon.nl/publish.htm) you can find a reference to the   
report on DiKnowSaur. I never did convert it to HTML so it's not   
available to be read there. Besides, it is in Dutch, and my "real"   
knowledge of dinosaurs has increased tremendously these last four years   
because of all the books I bought and read (before that I mainly some of   
the well know popular books, not much on actual physical details). I   
could however try to post the example sessions for DiKnowSaur from that   
document (the system itself is in English) and/or send interested people   
a copy of the system (MS-DOS) as soon as I locate it among my things at   
home. It could be an example of possible use of expert systems in   
dinosaur paleontology.

I'm sure that it would be possible (if not difficult and a lot of work!)   
to create such a system to identify even scrappy remains down to all the   
couple of hundred dinosaur species now known instead of the one or two   
dozen genera as DiKnowSaur does. It just needs a lot more rules than the   
hunderd or so (if I remember correctly) that DiKnowSaur contains.

> To me, paleontology, like chess, has an element of art to it no
> matter what the computers do.  This art, or arbitrariness, is part
> of my interest.

This is of course true, but to me the systematics of anatomical details   
and the rules for naming genera and species, the fact that cladograms   
(which are trees, one of the basic computer science datastructures, used   
for all kinds of things) are constructed using matrices of data and   
computer programs and of course that the Tree of Life itself is by its   
nature a tree are (I suspect...) some of the main reasons why I, as a   
computer scientist, am interested in paleontology. Or rather, due to my   
interested I became a computer scientist and a dinosaur nut, and I find   
it fascinating to find out that the reasons for this might actually in   
part be the same.

Met vriendelijke groeten,
Jarno Peschier

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