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Machine Intuition and Gut Feelings

A few years back, I was a PIP in a manufacturing facility in Vienna.

PIP means Person-in-plant, and I was representing a client, who had their Biological drug manufactured in that campaign. So I spent many hours inside the cleanrooms with the process engineers and the operators. During those hours you learn a lot about the other person and you learn even more about the manufacturing process and its nuance.

Towards the end of fermentation, we were going in and out more frequently for sampling, to test whether its time to harvest that fermenter. As we entered the room for the last time, the process engineer knew it was ready for harvest just by the different sounds the fermenter was making, and the results confirmed that hunch.

She explained that (in that specific process) the rheology of the solution changes at some point and the equipment resonates a different sound. How different? very slightly, but it was enough for her to notice after years of experience, listening to this distinct background “noise” and “feeling” it.

Fast forward a few years, and we now have Process Analytical Technologies (PAT) that can collect Acoustic and other types of in-process data, and with the power of Machine Learning and Big Data analysis, can identify patterns within the “noise” and respond accordingly, and in real-time.

The word “Noise” reminds me of when we called 99% of the Human Genome “Junk DNA” simply because we couldn’t understand it.

Our Brains have analyzed and responded to patterns and Big Data long before they were Buzz words. The result of this “algorithm” is given to us in the form of Intuition, or gut feeling, and we sometimes act without fully knowing what was going on “under the hood”. This happens in real-time, all the time. We evolved to recognize a snake in our visual field and instantly jump back without knowing why, even if later we realize it was just a hose.

The AI tools that roam around our big data finding links in places we haven’t noticed before are developing their own kind of “intuition” and their perception ability is much stronger than ours.

So, maybe it's time to expand our vocabulary beyond “Artificial Intelligence” to such things as “Machine Intuition”. Eventually, we will trust our Robot’s gut feelings, and let them run the show, instead of sitting days in-and-out, listening to fermenters.


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