GS Paper - 3 (Science and Technology)

At first glance, a recently granted South African patent relating to a “food container based on fractal geometry” seems fairly mundane. The innovation in question involves interlocking food containers that are easy for robots to grasp and stack. On closer inspection, the patent is anything but mundane. That's because the inventor is not a human being – it is an artificial intelligence (AI) system called DABUS.

What

  1. DABUS (which stands for “device for the autonomous bootstrapping of unified sentience”) is an AI system created by Stephen Thaler, a pioneer in the field of AI and programming.
  2. The system simulates human brainstorming and creates new inventions.
  3. DABUS is a particular type of AI, often referred to as “creativity machines” because they are capable of independent and complex functioning. This differs from everyday AI like Siri, the “voice” of Apple's iPhones.
  4. The patent application listing DABUS as the inventor was filed in patent offices around the world, including the US, Europe, Australia, and South Africa. But only South Africa granted the patent (Australia followed suit a few days later after a court judgment gave the go-ahead).
  5. The granting of the DABUS patent in South Africa has received widespread backlash from intellectual property experts. The critics argued that it was the incorrect decision in law, as AI lacks the necessary legal standing to qualify as an inventor.

What is the Creativity Machine?

  1. Creativity machines can process and critically analyse data, learning from it. This process is known as machine learning.
  2. Once the machine learning phase has occurred, the machine is able to “autonomously” create without human intervention. As has been seen in the COVID pandemic, as just one example, AI is able to solve problems humans were unable to – and also much faster than people can.