In defense of the black box

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Science  05 Apr 2019:
Vol. 364, Issue 6435, pp. 26-27
DOI: 10.1126/science.aax0162

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The science fiction writer Douglas Adams imagined the greatest computer ever built, Deep Thought, programmed to answer the deepest question ever asked: the Great Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. After 7.5 million years of processing, Deep Thought revealed its answer: Forty-two (1). As artificial intelligence (AI) systems enter every sector of human endeavor—including science, engineering, and health—humanity is confronted by the same conundrum that Adams encapsulated so succinctly: What good is knowing the answer when it is unclear why it is the answer? What good is a black box?